Can Lack of Sleep or Oversleeping Cause Weight Gain?

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Did you know that you cannot make up for lost sleep? Indeed, sleeping in on weekends to make up for sleep deprived weekdays is too irregular for the body’s regulation and can lead to weight gain. BOTH under-sleeping and oversleeping ultimately cause weight gain. When it comes to sleep, consistency is key. How can this be? Let’s break it down.

Not Enough Sleep Causes Weight Gain

Not getting enough sleep causes weight gain for several reasons. For one, being tired makes you need more energy and you eat more to get that energy. Second, you tend to gravitate toward sugar-heavy foods when you don’t get enough sleep. Third, two hormones kick in when you don’t get enough sleep. The first hormone is called ghrelin, and it makes you hungry; it amps up when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. The second hormone is called leptin and it’s an appetite suppressant, but your body produces LESS of leptin when you’re sleep-deprived.

So, basically, your body kicks into high gear to eat more to keep the body surviving because it didn’t get a chance to reboot during a solid night’s sleep. But this is something we’re all familiar with; we’ve all had scattered nights of sleep or all-nighters that made us suffer and stock up on large sugar-laden lattes and seen this cause-effect in action. Under-sleeping causing weight gain makes sense intuitively. But what about oversleeping?

What Qualifies As Oversleeping?

First, let’s clarify what qualifies as oversleeping. It’s actually not technically oversleeping if you regularly sleep ten hours a night, even though that’s above the traditional 8-hour-rule. Oversleeping is classified as 11 hours or more on a regular basis. Thus, if you sleep seven hours on weekdays and 10 hours on the weekends, you’re not oversleeping. And even if you sleep 10 hours every single night, you’re still not oversleeping.

Why Are You Oversleeping?

The underlying cause of why you’re oversleeping reveals why it leads to weight gain. Typically, people who are chronically oversleeping 11 hours or more are sleeping in because they’re depressed or afflicted with sleep apnea or hypothyroidism. Because of this, their bodies are already in a high-stress state producing more cortisol and holding onto weight in a kind of survival mode as a result.

In other words, they’re gaining weight because of stress, and they’re sleeping in because of stress so the actual cause underneath all the actions is stress or physical ailments NOT the mere fact that they’re sleeping in.

What sleep apnea, depression, and hypothyroidism all have in common is that they’re disorders that impact brain chemicals or body processes in such a way that those afflicted do not receive the signal to wake up once they’re “recharged.” It’s kind of like a chronically rendering (Rainbow wheeling) computer that is slowed down in such a way that it thinks it needs more time to load when it could have loaded faster had it only been getting the proper signals.

Does Yo-Yo Sleeping Cause Weight Gain?

What if you tend to under-sleep during the work week and then oversleep during the weekend? Will this yo-yo sleeping pattern make you gain weight? Yes, because contrary to popular belief, you cannot actually “make up” for lost sleep. All those nights of regularly under-sleeping at only 5 hours are like charging your phone to 50% and it dying by 3 pm.

While the weekend oversleeping may feel like it’s making up for those 5 days of 5 hours, it’s always putting you at a deficit and you’re never at full capacity. Just upping your work week hours from 5 to 7 hours will make you reach for different foods than you do currently from under-sleeping routine.

Sleeping can make or break your weight, so be sure to get not too much, not too little, but just the right amount on a regular basis!

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Jennifer has been a health writer and editor for 7 years. She has contributed to many national magazines and web sites, including Fitness, Health, Reader Digest, Shape and many more.

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