Does Sleep Deprivation Cause Weight Gain?

The dreaded Freshmen 15 is something that I think is on a majority of people’s minds as they prepare for college. But why is the Freshmen 15 a thing? Is it the all you can eat buffets at the dining hall? The ramen you have stashed in your dorm room? Or is it all that pizza that you eat at one o’clock in the morning on a Saturday? While trying to figure out what lifestyle changes could factor in to me gaining the weight. I noticed that one of the biggest things that I have had to deal with as I adjust to college life is the drop in the amount of sleep that I have been getting. Even though my earliest class starts at ten o’clock in the morning, a good two hours later than my high school classes started, I have been going to bed much, much later than in high school. I was wondering if this change could contribute to gaining weight in college.

The one thing that I discovered was that though many people agree that lack of sleep can attribute to weight gain, there is disagreement about the mechanism behind this correlation. One article talked about two observational studies. One focused on men who suffered from recurrent sleep deprivation. The less that these men slept, the more they craved high-calorie foods and the more calories they consumed in general. The second study focused on women. The women who recorded that they slept for less than six hours a night were more likely to gain weight than women who slept seven or more hours a night. The article mentioned that there have been studies done with children and adolescents that have elicited similar results. The mechanism that this particular article gave had to do with the hormones that control hunger. The amount of time that someone sleeps can affect their levels of ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain that your body has had enough food. Ghrelin is a hormone that tells your brain that you are hungry. If these hormones are affected, it can change how often and how much you eat. Another article made the same claim that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, but they put the blame on a completely different hormone entirely. This article introduces cortisol, which is a stress hormone that makes you hungry. This suggests that when you sleep less, your cortisol levels rise, and you’re going to eat more. The article also talks about how sleep deprivation can stop your body from successfully digesting sugars. Lack of sleep can also cause your body to go into survival mode. Your body wants as much fuel as possible, and it wants to keep all available resources so your metabolism slows down. The third article that I looked at talked about how your lack of sleep could impact your decision-making, making you not want to say no to that late night pizza.

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Even though the evidence is shaky, all of these claims made me think about the amount of sleep that I’m getting, and how it could be affecting my health.

5 thoughts on “Does Sleep Deprivation Cause Weight Gain?

  1. Amily Zhuang

    I think my messed-up sleep schedule is causing weight loss actually! Because I am no longer eating at the correct times yet still exercising, I feel that I am accidentally eating less. I am usually a snacker because I eat in small portions but my roommate and I have not had the chance to stock up on snacks either!

    I do believe that sleep deprivation causes bloating which can seem like there is weight gain? If that makes sense.

    As a freshman, I am still trying to balance my schedule and go to sleep at a decent time. But here I am finishing up my comments at 3 am… obviously we have some work to do.

  2. Katelyn Bowers

    I have found this to be very true. I am a freshman so this college experience is new to me. I stay up very late doing homework and studying and constantly get hungry and continue snacking. I found this article talking about how thinking may cause you to be more hungry and this could cause the weight gain.http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/science-of-snacks-thinking-makes-you-hungry/

    It is also known that eating late at night causes weight gain because the energy isn’t being used and is thus being stored as fat.
    I have also found that when I am tired I get hungry. After a late night of studying when I wake up I just want a big breakfast and as the day goes on and I get more tired, I want more snacks and food.

  3. Claudia Lynn Hatch

    I had this conversation with my stepmom during my senior year! I really hope that it is not true, but sadly I think this hypothesis is correct. I did not get a lot of sleep during my senior year, and I definitely do not get much now, so I am very interested in this topic! I really liked your blog post and thought you did a great job of organizing your thoughts and persuading me into getting more sleep. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/lack-of-sleep-weight-gain#1
    Here is another article on the topic! Let’s hope for the best and all try to get more sleep!

  4. Elsa Breakey

    I think about this a lot too. I woke up for high school at 6:45, but always went to sleep before midnight. Now at college the earliest I wake up is 8:30 – but I’m going to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning. I usually eat dinner around 5:30 or 6, which causes me to snack throughout the night

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