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Less Sleep = More Weight

We’ve talked about the importance of sleep in the weight loss/weight maintenance puzzle.  It’s one of those pieces to the puzzle that’s often overlooked.  However, this is a big mistake as more and more science continues to mound that supports the sleep/weight gain theory.

So here’s the simple message — sleep more, weigh less … with most research suggesting the 8 hour mark being ideal for losing and maintaining your body weight.

But just when you think the "chapter" in this story is closed, another interesting study comes out …

… showing that as little as 80 minutes of less sleep per day adds up in terms of the calories you eat.

Check this out:

The study was recently presented at a conference.  The two groups of participants were divided — one group slept their usual time, while the other slept approximately 80 minutes (just 1 hour, 20 minutes) less per night.  This went on for eight nights.  The following days, subjects were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

The other piece to the puzzle – the group who slept less didn’t burn any more calories, so they weren’t waking up 1 hour and 20 minutes early to go out to Mohr Results Boot Camp or do any other type of workout.

And boy did they – this small amount of sleep "deprivation" — just 1 hour, 20 minutes, resulted in the subjects overeating 594 calories extra (the equivalent of nearly 7 cans of soda!).  All else being equal, this amount of calories would lead to over a 1 lb weight gain each week! 


All for a little shut eye.  Now the exact reason this happens is still being determined.  There are some data that suggest specific hunger hormones, namely ghrelin, are affected.  Or maybe it’s as simple as when you don’t get enough sleep, you have to eat more to boost your energy the following day to stay awake.  Maybe since you’re awake for longer, you’re eating more.  Regardless, this weight gain/sleep connection has been shown time and time again.

Here’s a similar study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that compared 2 levels of sleep — 4 hours vs. 8 hours — and measured food intake the following day.

They learned after just a single night of getting just 4 hours of sleep (sleep deprivation) the subjects at 22% (an average of 559 calories) more the following day compared to the group who got just 8 hours of sleep!

While this short term study was small, it definitely opens the door for more research on this topic to see if continued sleep deprivation (defined as 4 hours in this study) and subsequent overeating could be a major cause of obesity.

Bottom Line:

Burning the candle at both ends and thinking just "1 night of lack of sleep won’t hurt me" is false.  Sleep is an easy part of the equation to control — even aiming for just 1 more hour each night will help.  Every little bit of additional sleep helps!

Now go lay down!

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12 Responses to Less Sleep = More Weight

  1. Lorraine June 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Plus how much perkier and happier will you be all day long too? 🙂

  2. Natalie June 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Chris and Kara,
    Thanks for touching on this subject… seems to be a very hot topic lately and obviously a very large part of the weight puzzle, more so than people realize!!

  3. Hilary Williams June 14, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    We’ve all done it. You flip through all the fashion magazines, wishing you could look just a little more like some of those girls. But no matter what you do, you can’t seem to squeeze into that size 0 (coz really, who can???) Instead of torturing yourself with goals that are unachievable, why not start focusing on leading a healthier, happier lifestyle? Take a look at what’s on the minds of girls in regards to body image and find out what can be done about your body insecurities! Visit here!

  4. Fat Burning Class May 22, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    This is nice post. Sleep is really an important part of our life. There are a lot of benefits that you get out of it. It’s for muscle repair, maintaining normal levels of blood pressure, good for our immune system and also for losing weight. Having adequate sleep will help control your appetite and decrease the production of hormone called ghrelin which is responsible for stimulating your appetite. So start sleeping well tonight and see the positive results.

  5. Christi Smith September 30, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    But WHY does less sleep actually lead to gaining weight? On the cellular level… WHY does the person eat more or retain more body fat with less sleep???
    What is the science behind it??

    • Chris and Kara Mohr October 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

      While there are some hormonal changes with sleep (or lack thereof), a lot of it seems to come down to simply eating more because you have more time awake, then you’re tired so eating more to boost energy subsequent days, too tired to exercise, etc.

  6. sha September 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    It really works! Thanks…

  7. John the submariner March 21, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Try being on a submarine…months at a time with sleep deprivation. 18 hour day normally with 6 hours on watch, 6 hours of maitenance, training, and drills and maybe 6 hours of sleep. Believe me, it catches up with you.

  8. Laura March 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Hi Chris and Kara,
    Do you know of any studies that would compare a 6.5-7 hour sleep combined with activity in that 1-1.5 extra time you are awake, versus sleeping in to get that 8hours, and NOT getting in the 1-1.5hours of activity>??
    ie. What should you sacrifice…. 1 hour of sleep OR 1 hour of exercise for those that claim they are unable to fit BOTH in!?
    Thanks! 🙂

    • Chris and Kara Mohr April 2, 2012 at 7:06 am #

      Not sure but certainly a good question! Hmmmmmm…maybe split the difference. 🙂

  9. Lorie Christesen April 1, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Nice I like this “owe some calories”, I think this analogy can help people to understand more about how fat gain and fat loss.You might wanna write more about this topic, it was really interesting to read.

  10. Lake Forest Chiropractor April 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Yikes, I didn’t know that an hour shaved off the recommended sleeping time can cause dire consequences. This will definitely make me think before staying up late tonight.

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