Feeling Hungrier? Poor Sleep May be to Blame

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

2051-lack-of-sleep-prevents-fat-loss.jpgStudy after study keeps coming out showing a link between poor sleep and increased weight.

We all know that sleep is essential for proper health. But, how vital is it for keeping weight under control?

It’s all about the Hormones

  • Ghrelin is a nasty sounding hormone that increases with less hours of sleep. As ghrelin increases, appetite increases.
  • Leptin is the hormone that does the opposite. This hormone helps you feel fullness. With lack of sleep, your body produces less leptin, therefore leaving you still feeling hungry.

With both of these hormones unbalanced, it leaves you feeling constantly hungry, and unable to recognize satisfaction and true fullness.

Choose Sleep over Exercise

When you are pressed with the decision of getting to bed early or getting in an exercise session, sleep wins.

Think of it this way: If you don’t get proper sleep, you won’t have the energy or capacity to exercise. Yes, you may burn calories with exercise, but sleep will save you calories in the long run.

What Counts as Good Sleep?

2960-enough-sleep.jpgMost experts recommend 7 to 9 hours for adults. It depends on your age as well. The younger you are the more sleep you need.

This is not to be confused with the thought that young people are resilient and can stay up all hours of the night.

But, it is true that young adults can bounce back easier from bodily stress. However, sleep is essential for every human.

8 Ways to Sleep Better

  1. Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
  2. Try to stay out of the bed except when it is bedtime.
  3. Keep a notepad by your bed to jot down thoughts that come to mind while you lay in bed. This helps to calm the mind.
  4. Stay away from the computer 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. The computer emits a bluer light that can keep you awake longer.
  5. Practice meditation or relaxation techniques.
  6. Exercise! Regular exercise can improve sleep.
  7. Do not eat anything 2 hours before bedtime to ensure proper digestion.
  8. Purchase a foam mattress topper if your mattress is to blame for poor sleep.

Do you get enough sleep? If so, do you have any techniques you use to sleep well?


  1. ActYourselfThin

    Very actionable tips for making small changes to your behavior that can have a big impact on results. Getting enough sleep definitely ranks in the top few most important things you can do to manage your weight… if I had to pick a close second, the science suggests that eliminating diet drinks and artificial sweeteners can have a huge impact as well.

    Thanks for the great info!

  2. O.

    I wish more studies would be done on this because this has apparently been my problem for over 15 years of off and on dieting and having my weight repeatedly go back up.

    But people are so intent on stereotyping overwieght people as “lazy” that it’s hard to get info on how decreased sleep affects weight.

    It took me being reduced to 2 hours of sleep a night while caring for my sick mother to realize what was really happening.

    When I tried to explain to my doctor what was going on he just gave me funny looks. But I know I can’t follow any published diet anymore, they are all designed for people that get 7-8 hours of sleep and I average 4-5. So I am always shortchanged in calories and actually “starving” myself which just causes me to put on more weight.

    So now I am actually droping weight on 2000-2500 “lean” calories a day which is far more calories than any published diet I have seen for a woman. And I taylor my calorie intake to how much sleep I’ve had and I try to nap when I am sleepy and at home even if I should be up to get some extra sleep. But I had to come up with this plan on my own through experimentation.

  3. Jim

    Whatever works… I use earplugs.

  4. Spectra

    I’m a great sleeper–I fall asleep and stay asleep for a good 7-8 hours. Sometimes, I’ll get 9 hours if I don’t have to work the next day. This is actually part of why I don’t want to have kids…I value my sleep WAY too much!

  5. Linda

    I agree with Ariel. My husband and I found that sleeping in separate beds was key to a good nights sleep, for us anyway. He snores, I toss and turn a lot. Our friends think its strange to sleep apart,but its a good nights sleep for us!

  6. Stan Starsky

    Really great article…I used to be guilty of using the computer just before going to bed and it did take me longer to fall asleep.

    I do have a relaxation tape that I use and I found that it really does help.

  7. Ariel

    I found that sleeping alone is the only thing that truly works for me. I’ve struggled with my sleeping for years, and the turning point was to get separate bedrooms. Not that we don’t ever sleep in the same bed, but the choice is amazing. Maybe he’s having a late night at work and I have to get up early, or the other way around; with separate beds there’s no stressing over things like that and no waking each other up. Really something to think about, that was the only thing that kept me from sleeping like a baby, every night. And I’d tried everything before that: meditation, relaxation techniques, going to bed at the exact same time every night, slowly turning down the lights in the house a couple of hours before bedtime… and tons more! But all it took was my own, private bed!!

    • Don

      Ariel that is a great idea, i am going to suggest that to my partner. She has enough trouble sleeping without me snoring my head off, and getting up very early in the morning..