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Mostly True, Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain

Image source: Business2Community 5 mins read

Claim: A Twitter user claims that lack of sleep causes weight gain of 2 pounds (0.9 kg) in under one week.

Mostly true. Research confirms the assertion and a Dietician at Nyaho Medical Centre Dr. Frank Marfo has also affirmed that scientific evidence favors the assertion that sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain. This is because one gets the appetite to eat more during the time one stays awake and this can lead to weight gain. 

Full Text 

A Twitter user @Fact claims that sleep deprivation leads to weight gain in under one week.

“Lack of sleep can cause weight gain of 2 pounds (0.9 kg) in under a week,” they posted.

The claim has sparked lots of conversation, leaving other users in a state of dilemma whether the claim is true.

The claim has been posted on several platforms, including Facebook and Pinterest.

It has garnered over 800 reactions on Twitter.

Photo Credit:  Twitter

Verification

According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Babies, young children, and teens need even more sleep to enable their growth and development. People over 65 should also get seven to eight hours per night.

A dietician at the Nyaho Medical Centre, Dr. Frank Marfo, affirmed that the claim is true and that scientific evidence favors the assertion that sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain. 

“In our practice, we use evidence to make our conclusions. And looking at the scientific evidence, it is kind of favoring the assertion that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. When you deprive your body of sleep, there are a lot of imbalances. It can either go to the positive or negative sides. And this can lead to weight gain, so you get the appetite to eat more during the time you stay awake,” Dr. Marfo said.

Explaining further, Dr. Frank Marfo said there are several hormones like leptin and ghrelin that make sleep-deprived weight gain possible. He added that another hormone called cortisol, which is associated with stress and obesity, also makes it possible since the lack of sleep is associated with stress.

“The definition of sleep is also associated with increased stress levels. When you deprive yourself of sleep, you stress yourself because you always sleep late and wake up very early to work. So when your stress levels are high there is a hormone we call cortisol. This hormone is associated with increased stress and the same hormone is associated with obesity. So basically when you sleep less you stress yourself and this stress leads to obesity”. 

A research by Andrea M Speath et al in 2013 on the topic “Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weight gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults” concluded that not having enough sleep makes one vulnerable to weight gain due to greater daily caloric intake and the consumption of calories during late night hours. 

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a study titled Impact of Insufficient Sleep on Total Daily Energy Expenditure, Food Intake, and Weight Gain, monitored 16 young, lean, and healthy men and women who lived for two weeks at the University of Colorado Hospital.

The results of the study revealed that while staying awake longer did indeed require more energy, the extra calories burned were more than offset by the amount of food the study participants consumed.

Also quoted in the research, was Kenneth Wright, Director of CU-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado Hospital. According to him, getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain, but when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they need – this may result in weight gain.

Moreover, a research article in Science Advances revealed that minor weekly shifts in sleep timing, or as few as five consecutive nights of short sleep, have been associated with an increased risk of weight gain in healthy humans.  

Another research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information indicated that short sleep duration was significantly associated with the incidence of obesity, whereas long sleep duration did not affect future obesity among adults. 

How we gain weight when we don’t sleep

According to Michael J. Breus, a clinical psychologist and a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the lack of sleep that affects our ability to lose or gain weight has a lot to do with our nightly hormones.

The hormones key in these processes are ghrelin and leptin

Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat. And when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin which means you will consume more food leading to your weight gain. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating. And when you are not sleep-deprived, you have less leptin, which means you eat less.

Thus, more ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.

Other effects of Lack of Sleep

The cost of all sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus, according to the NHS.

The National Health Service (NHS), a publicly funded healthcare system in the United Kingdom (UK), reveals other effects of having several sleepless nights. 

The mental effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. 

You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work, and on the road also increases.

Lack of sleep can also affect your overall health and make you prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

It, however, remains unclear exactly how much weight an individual stands to gain in under a week as indicated in the claim.

Conclusion

The claim that sleep deprivation leads to weight gain is mostly true. Research indicates that just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain, but when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they need which leads to weight gain. Also, a dietician at the Nyaho Medical Centre Dr. Frank Marfo confirmed that the imbalance caused when you don’t have enough sleep leads you to eat more, leading to weight gain. 

This report was produced under the Dubawa Student Fact-checking Project aimed at offering students in tertiary schools aspiring to take up roles in the profession the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through verification and fact-checking. 

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