Is Your Obesity Related To Less Sleep? | Healios

Is your Obesity related to less sleep?

Is your Obesity related to less sleep?

Short sleep duration is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for obesity.

Sleep, diet and exercise is now considered the 3 lifestyle behaviors which are closely associated with health.

Less sleep duration causes positive energy balance resulting in obesity.

Studies show greater intakes of energy, fat, and possibly carbohydrates in short sleepers.Short sleep duration (SSD) is typically defined as less than 6 hours of sleep per day.It has been associated with weight gain and obesity and other risks like heart attack.
Most studies indicate that the weight gain associated with less sleep is likely due to increased energy intake. It has been proposed that insufficient sleep will trigger a set of hormonal, metabolic, and behavioral changes to increase food intake.

We will  discuss the impact of sleep disruption on energy intake by focusing on

(a) Observational studies of sleep and food intake
(b) Intervention studies of sleep and food intake and
(c) Hormonal pathways, food intake, and sleep.

Observational Studies of Sleep and Food Intake

Several studies have examined population patterns of food intake relative to sleep.
In an analysis of data from the Cleveland Children’s Sleep and Health Study(1), Short Sleep Duration was associated with

  • Greater energy intake (~200 kcal)
  • Greater proportion of energy from fat
  • Lower proportion of energy from carbohydrates and
  • Greater energy intake in early morning (5:00–7:00 AM).

 In a study conducted among factory workers in Japan(2),Short Sleep Duration  was associated with

  • Irregular meal timing and eating habits
  • Snacking between meals
  • Dining out
  • Lower consumption of vegetables, and
  • Greater preference for strongly flavored food.

In a study conducted by National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2007 – 2008 (3) found that self-reported long sleepers (≥9 hours) consumed fewer calories than normal sleepers (7–8 hours). Also, very short (<5 hours), short (5–6 hours), and long sleepers (≥9 hours)   consumed a smaller variety of foods, compared to normal sleepers.
In a study of middle-aged Japanese workers, difficulty in initiating sleep was associated with low protein intake.Difficulty in maintaining sleep was associated with high protein and low carbohydrate intakes. Overall poor sleep quality was associated with low protein intake.

Thus, population studies demonstrate that Short Sleep Duration  is associated with greater energy intake, snacking between meals, and lower protein intake, while poor sleep quality is associated with poor diet quality.
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Intervention Studies of Sleep and Food Intake

Here the association between SSD and obesity is proved by monitoring energy intake after manipulating sleep. These studies show that sleep restriction compared to a period of habitual sleep duration results in increased energy intake, by approximately 300 to 550 kcal/day,when participants are allowed to freely select their food.

It is also reported that restricting sleep by 4 hours increases 24-hour energy expenditure by ~90 kcal. This would result in a net positive energy balance of >200 kcal/day due to sleep restriction.

Overall, most laboratory findings to date suggest that sleep restriction increases energy intake, particularly fat and possibly carbohydrate intake.

Hormonal Pathways, Food Intake, and Sleep

Leptin and Ghrelin are the two well-studied hormones involved in food intake regulation .These hormones may provide a potential mechanism mediating the SSD–obesity link.(4)

Variations in either or both of these hormones could explain the hyperphagia ( over eating ) observed after sleep disruption. This is because leptin signals satiety whereas ghrelin triggers hunger and food intake.

A large cross-sectional study found that Short sleep duration was associated with low leptin and high ghrelin levels compared to long sleepers.


  • Weiss A, Xu F, Storfer-Isser A, Thomas A, Ievers-Landis CE, Redline S. The association of sleep duration with adolescents’ fat and carbohydrate consumption. Sleep. 2010;33:1201–1209.
  • Imaki M, Hatanaka Y, Ogawa Y, Yoshida Y, Tanada S. An epidemiological study on relationship between the hours of sleep and life style factors in Japanese factory workers. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002;21:115–120.
  • Grandner MA, Jackson N, Gerstner JR, Knutson KL. Dietary nutrients associated with short and long sleep duration. Data from a nationally representative sample. Appetite. 2013;64:71–80.
  • Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med. 2004;1(3):e62.

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