When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, diet and exercise often steal the spotlight. However, an often-overlooked factor in the weight management equation is sleep. Emerging research highlights the significant impact sleep has on weight gain and weight loss. In this weeks article, we delve into the hormonal changes that occur with sleep deprivation, research linking poor sleep to obesity, how to determine the right amount of sleep for your body, the differences between REM and deep sleep, and tips for better sleep.

Hormonal Changes: The Hunger Hormones

Sleep deprivation disrupts the delicate balance of hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. Two key players in this hormonal interplay are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, known as the "hunger hormone," stimulates appetite, while leptin, the "satiety hormone," signals fullness to the brain.

  1. Increased Ghrelin: Lack of sleep increases ghrelin levels, making you feel hungrier than usual.
  2. Decreased Leptin: Sleep deprivation decreases leptin levels, reducing your feeling of fullness.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Sleep found that sleep restriction significantly alters ghrelin and leptin levels, leading to increased hunger and appetite, which can contribute to weight gain .

Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain: Research Insights

Numerous studies have established a clear link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. A meta-analysis published in the journal Obesity reviewed multiple studies and concluded that short sleep duration is associated with an increased risk of obesity in both children and adults . Another systematic review in the International Journal of Obesity confirmed that individuals who consistently get less than 6 hours of sleep per night are at a higher risk of gaining weight compared to those who sleep 7-8 hours .

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

The amount of sleep you need can vary based on age, lifestyle, and individual health needs. The National Sleep Foundation provides general guidelines:

  • Adults (18-64 years): 7-9 hours per night
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours per night

To determine your ideal sleep duration, listen to your body. If you feel alert and energetic during the day without relying on caffeine, you're likely getting enough sleep. Using a sleep tracker can also help monitor your sleep patterns and ensure you're getting the recommended amount.

REM Sleep vs. Deep Sleep: The Importance of Both

Sleep is divided into several stages, with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and deep sleep being particularly important for overall health.

  1. REM Sleep: This stage is crucial for cognitive functions such as memory consolidation, learning, and mood regulation. REM sleep is characterized by increased brain activity, vivid dreams, and rapid eye movements. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), REM sleep typically begins about 90 minutes after falling asleep and becomes longer in the later stages of the sleep period. The longest REM periods occur in the final hours of sleep .

  2. Deep Sleep: Also known as slow-wave sleep, deep sleep is essential for physical restoration. During this stage, the body repairs tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. Deep sleep occurs in the first half i.e. 3-4 hours of your sleep phase. The Sleep Foundation notes that deep sleep is most prevalent in the early part of the night. As the night progresses, the amount of deep sleep decreases, while REM sleep stages lengthen .

Tips for Better Sleep

Improving sleep quality can aid in weight loss and the following are some tips to enhance your sleep hygiene:

  1. Establish a Routine: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment: Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  3. Limit Screen Time: Avoid screens (phones, tablets, computers) at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted can interfere with melatonin production.
  4. Watch Your Diet: Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.
  5. Exercise Regularly: Engage in regular physical activity, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime.
  6. Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or gentle yoga before bed.


Adequate sleep is a crucial component of weight management and overall health. By understanding the hormonal changes associated with sleep deprivation, acknowledging the research linking poor sleep to weight gain, and adopting better sleep practices, you can enhance your weight loss efforts and improve your overall well-being. 


  1. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Medicine, 1(3), e62.
  2. Spiegel, K., Tasali, E., Penev, P., & Van Cauter, E. (2004). Brief Communication: Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men Is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141(11), 846-850.
  3. Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N. B., Currie, A., Peile, E., Stranges, S., & Miller, M. A. (2008). Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults. Sleep, 31(5), 619-626.
  4. Patel, S. R., & Hu, F. B. (2008). Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity, 16(3), 643-653.
June 07, 2024 — stephanie dowling

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