Short Sleep and Obesity: Part 1

The etiology of obesity is multifactorial and can be linked to various dietary and lifestyle habits. Short sleep is one of those factors that has been linked to weight gain. Over the next few posts I am going to give you a better understanding of how sleep plays a role in your weight. Long term epidemiological studies (fancy lingo for a study that follows a large number of people over many years) have shown increased risk and association with cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, and obesity for individuals obtaining less than the required amount of sleep per night.1 Often when life gets busy or during stressful periods, we often steal extra time by sleeping less. However, I would recommend just the opposite… prioritize sleep.

The first avenue we are going to investigate is appetite regulation. There is clear evidence that short sleep has impact on our hunger signals and hormonal pathways. There are two hormones that regulate our appetite. The first is leptin. Leptin is secreted from our adipocytes, or fat cells. Leptin tells our body that we are full, having plenty of energy stored and keeps appetite low. The second is ghrelin, which is a stomach-derived peptide that stimulates appetite and those hunger pangs.


There is a delicate balance between these two hormones and short sleep can send our appetite all over the place!

One study I want to share with you is the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study.  Participants were hooked up to a polysomongraphy machines (records quality of sleep and duration) and collected information on sleep habits through questionnaires and sleep diaries. Researchers also collected morning fasting blood samples and analyzed them for serum leptin (appetite suppressing) and ghrelin (appetite stimulating). What the researchers found was that the participants with short sleep had reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin, which also translated into an increase in BMI observed in those with short sleep duration.2

So what does this research mean? Getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep can assist with controlling that appetite! If you are tired of fighting your own hunger all day, make sure you are allowing yourself the opportunity for enough sleep.

Short Sleep and Obesity: Part 2 coming soon!



  1. Itani O, Kaneita Y, Murata A, Yokoyama E, Ohida T. Association of onset of obesity with sleep duration and shift work among Japanese adults. Sleep Medicine. 2011; 12:341-345. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2010.09.007
  2. 4.  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 Medicine. 2004. 1:3. Doi 10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062.



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