Is Lack Of Sleep Contributing To Your Weight Gain?

By David Goldstein, M.D.

Something to consider during this National Sleep Awareness Week, March 5-11; according to the American Obesity Association nearly 200 million Americans are categorized as being overweight or obese and more than 70 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Obesity is recognized as a major risk factor for breathing problems that can disrupt sleeping and obese individuals suffer from sleep apnea at a much higher rate than those at a healthy weight. Doctors therefore often recommend weight reduction as a part of a therapeutic plan for patients with sleep apnea.

While it is understood that adults need 7-8 hours of sleep, most of us only get 6 or less hours sleep. Insomnia and sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome affect sleep duration. Studies demonstrate a correlation between an imbalance of hormones and appetite control when people are deprived of adequate sleep. Meaning that having a sleep disorder can be a contributor to obesity, as well as obesity contributing to poor sleeping. The people who took part in the studies also experienced a decrease of leptin levels, the hormones that “turn off” your appetite, and an increase of ghrelin levels, the hormone controlling “hunger.” Even as little as one hour less sleep per night can trigger this imbalance, resulting in possible weight gain.

Everyone should establish a regular sleep schedule; go to bed the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. And if possible avoid dramatic work shift changes and resist the urge to stay up late or sleep in on off days. If problems sleeping through the night persist, a sleep study is the best way to accurately diagnose a possible disorder. Studies are performed by collecting physiological data such as brain waves, muscle movements, heart rate, and breathing while you sleep using noninvasive sensors. A sleep technologist records this data as well as images coming from a camera in a separate testing room. This information is carefully reviewed and compiled into a report that is sent to your healthcare provider.

Dr. Goldstein is the medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center’s Old Bridge location. The state-of-the-art diagnostic center provides the highest quality care in a hotel-like setting under the direction of board-certified sleep physicians. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 1-732-360-4255 or visit

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