Have you been struggling to lose weight and nothing’s working? According to researchers, there’s a connection between how many hours you sleep a night and weight gain.

The study included 70,000 middle-aged women starting in 1986. The participants checked-in their weight every two years over a 16-year period. The results showed women could be expected to gain 33 or more pounds if they got only five hours of sleep per night. Whereas, if participants got 7 hours of sleep per night they were only 15% more likely to have significant weight gain.

The researchers then wondered whether the women who were sleeping less were also eating more food. The data showed that in actuality this wasn’t happening, they ate less. This meant, according to lead researcher Sanjay Patel, M.D., “appetite and diet are not accounting for the weight gain in women who sleep less.”

So why did this happen?  There are several possibilities for the weight gain:

  • Basal metabolic rate:  This is how many calories the body burns when at rest.  Sleeping fewer hours per night may affect this, which means the body burns fewer calories.
  • Exercise associated thermogenesis:  Also known more commonly as fidgeting, those who sleep less may also move less, which means fewer calories burned.
  • Cortisol levels:  Less sleep means the body makes more cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.  This makes you hungry.
  • Body metabolism:  Not getting enough sleep hampers your body’s ability to process carbohydrates, which leads to higher glucose and insulin levels.
  • Leptin levels:  These go down with less sleep and thus the body wants more carbohydrates.
  • Growth hormones:  Controls fat-to-muscle proportions, which lower due to lack of sleep.

You also experience higher blood pressure, a greater risk for heart disease, and insulin resistance problems with inadequate sleep. Considering the average woman in the United States only gets 6 ½ hours of sleep nightly, this presents a challenge to those who want to lose weight.  Ideally, you need 7 or more hours of sleep.

Want to learn more about the connection between weight and sleep? Read the full article here:  Sleep More, Lose Weight.