Lack of sleep can contribute to overeating and weight gain

The Sleep-Weight Connection

This blog was first published on on November 28, 2016

If you’ve been gaining weight and not getting enough sleep lately, some new research suggests the problems are very likely connected. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that people who didn’t get enough sleep consumed an extra 385 calories the following day. A 2.5 ounce bag of potato chips or a banana nut muffin can provide that many calories.

That’s enough extra calories to gain one pound every 9 days! While sleep deprivation has its own health consequences, the potential weight gain from consistently not sleeping enough is also a concern.

How Are Food Choices Affected by Lack of Sleep?

In this study, the researchers reviewed 11 other studies made up of 172 participants and compared people who didn’t get enough sleep (3.5 – 5 hours/night) to people who got adequate sleep (7 – 12 hours/night) and what the subjects in each group ate afterwards. What they found was that the sleep deprived people didn’t necessarily eat more, but they did choose foods higher in fat and lower in protein, with about the same amount of carbohydrate. The additional calories in the food choices of the sleep deprived people resulted in weight gain since they weren’t using those calories with increased physical activity.

The studies in this review were not designed to explain why people change their food choices following sleep deprivation, but the answer may lie in the reward center of the brain. The results of another study of sleep deprived adults showed greater activation in areas of the brain associated with reward when subjects were exposed to food. This suggests they would be more motivated to seek food when sleep deprived. Another study found higher levels of a lipid in the bloodstream known as endocannabinoid, a naturally produced compound that binds to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana. Activating this part of the brain has been shown to make eating more pleasurable and result in a greater desire for palatable food.

How is Appetite Affected by Lack of Sleep?

 Another proposed reason for the change in food choices by sleep-deprived people is a disruption in their hormones that control appetite, or the desire to eat. The natural circadian rhythms, or biological clock, of the body regulate our sleep-wake-feeding cycles to 24 hour periods. When those cycles are thrown out of sync by external influences, such as staying awake too long, other biological functions of the body are affected. Studies on sleep deprived people have shown they have reduced levels of leptin, a hormone that produces satiety, and increased levels of ghrelin, the hormone that regulates hunger. The change in these hormones in sleep deprived people supports their reports of having an increased appetite, even though they shouldn’t be hungry.

 How Does Food Affect Sleep?

There’s one more twist to the sleep-weight gain story worth mentioning. When certain foods or beverages are eaten at night, they can interfere with the ability to fall asleep, or stay asleep. That can leave you feeling tired the next day. When you feel tired during your waking hours, you may turn to foods and beverages that will help you stay awake, such as those containing caffeine or high amounts of added sugars. This eating and drinking is not in response to hunger, but a way to temporarily become more alert. It not only introduces unneeded calories, but can create a vicious cycle of being overstimulated during the day, and unable to sleep well at night.

While there are still a number of unanswered questions, the evidence is growing that sleep and weight gain are connected. Fortunately, the solution for many people may be as simple as pulling down the shades, powering off all screens and turning out the light for a good night’s sleep so you can wake up ready to start the day with your appetite under control.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

exercising and eating right are part of a healthy lifestyle

10 Ways to Improve Your Health

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


With all the talk about who should pay for healthcare we sometimes forget the most important way to lower healthcare costs is by taking good care of ourselves. While some illnesses are unavoidable, most are preventable. Use these 10 Ways to Improve Your Health as your premium payment for the best health insurance policy money can’t buy.

1. Curb Excesses – If you have an addiction or compulsive behavior, such as smoking or drinking excessively, it will deplete your physical condition and your bank account. Investing in professional help to treat them now will reap returns in improved health and wealth for the rest of your life.

2. Express Yourself – Everyone needs an emotional outlet to relieve the normal stresses of everyday life. Don’t be afraid to cry when you hurt or laugh out loud when something strikes you funny. Some people turn to writing their thoughts in a journal to express themselves, while others use creative outlets like music, art or even cooking.

3. Maintain Your Smile – Not brushing your teeth properly can be as damaging to your health as not brushing at all. Bacteria in the mouth that is not removed by good oral care may contribute to heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. And since the health of your teeth is directly connected to the quality of your diet, the effort pays off in more ways than one.

4. Take Precautions – Accidents are the fifth major cause of death in the United States. Basic safety measures can prevent many of them and reduce the severity of the injuries that may occur. Make sure you always wear a seat belt, drive within the speed limit, wear sun glasses and sun screen when outdoors, use the right sports gear, and are careful around ladders and water.

5. Eat Well – Focusing on health instead of weight when making food choices pays big dividends with every bite since good nutrition is the best preventive medicine there is. Even if you can’t lose all the weight you should, it’s worth eating well to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including many types of cancer.

6. Make Face Time – Connecting with family and friends on Face Book and other social networks is fine, but should not replace face-to-face meetings. A small but close circle of people you can spend time with is more valuable to your quality of life than having hundreds of friends you never see or talk to.

7. Move More – Instead of thinking about all of the exercise you’re supposed to be doing, just try to get up out of your chair to stand, pace or put your body in motion whenever you can. The goal is to decrease the number of hours a day you spend sitting. Medical experts found women who sit more than six hours a day are 94% more likely to die than those who are not inactive for long periods of time.

8. Check-Up + Follow Up – Just like birthdays and anniversaries, routine dental and medical check-ups should be permanent dates on your calendar. If you keep these annual appointments with your primary care physician and dentist you will have fewer unscheduled visits to treat pain and problems that could have been prevented.

9. Stretch Often – The benefits of routine stretching include improved circulation, stress relief, more flexible joints, and better balance so fewer falls. A good time to do some total body stretches is before getting out of bed in the morning or after a shower when the muscles are warmed up.

10. Sleep Enough – Something as basic as sleep is difficult for the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lowered immune response, accidents, depression and early death. Treating sleep as a necessity, not a luxury, is an important way to prevent illness and prolong life.

Healthy living tips for the 50+ brought to by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.

Not getting enough sleep is only one reason why people feel tired all the time

Tired All the Time? 11 Reasons Why (Besides Lack of Sleep)

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the blog here.


We’ve all felt exhausted at one time or another, but what if you’re tired all the time? While that’s definitely not good, it may help to know you’re not alone. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has increased its surveillance of sleep-related disorders in recent years in recognition of the problem.

The issue of inadequate sleep is a national health concern because it is associated with a higher risk of several chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. It also increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents and industrial and occupational errors.

Since no one wants to drag themselves through each day feeling tired and weak, what’s keeping them from getting all the rest they need?

Snoring, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia are the most common sleep disorders that keep people from getting a good night’s rest. Each can be diagnosed and treated to restore sound sleep to the sufferer and his/her sleeping partner. But many other conditions can leave you feeling sluggish no matter how many hours of sleep you get.

There’s no reason to take feeling run down as the new normal, no matter how long you’ve suffered or how many other people you know who have the same complaint. A simple change of diet or medication may be all that is needed to correct the underlying problem.

11 Reasons Why You May Be Tired All the Time

  1. Allergies – Some food cause sudden sleepiness right after eating them. Allergies to dust, mold, pollen and other things in the environmental can trigger allergic sinusitis, which can cause fatigue.
  2. Anemia – Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common blood condition in the US and a common cause of fatigue.
  3. Thyroid Problems – The thyroid gland regulates metabolism. If it is under active, you will feel sluggish.
  4. Rheumatoid Arthritis – This inflammatory condition can produce extreme fatigue along with pain and joint stiffness.
  5. Diabetes – The cells are deprived of glucose in undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes, so they can’t produce energy.
  6. Depression – The chronic feelings of sadness, worry, and hopelessness that accompany depression can result in feeling sluggish and tired all the time.
  7. Dehydration – When fluids are not regularly replaced, blood volume falls and the heart must work harder to pump the blood the body needs, which can lead to fatigue.
  8. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – There is no known cause for this syndrome which often includes headache, inability to concentrate, and muscle weakness.
  9. Poor Diet – Deficiencies in Vitamins D, B12, and folate or minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue.
  10. Lack of Fuel – Skipping meals or not eating enough can deprive the body of sufficient calories to fuel everyday activities.
  11. Heart Disease – Fatigue while doing things that were once easy can be a symptom of undiagnosed heart disease.

When is the last time you got through the day without running out of energy?

Check these related blogs for more information of feeling tired:

  • Anemia Causes Higher Risk of Death After Stroke
  • The World’s Most Popular Drug: Caffeine

8 Ways to Lose Weight This Spring

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the blog here.

The cold and dark winter months make it easy to gain unwanted weight. We’re less likely to be active outdoors and find ourselves tempted by all the leftovers from those food-filled winter holidays when stuck indoors. Use these 8 ways to lose weight with the start of spring so you can be back in shape by summer.

Plant a Garden

Planting your own vegetables and herbs in a small garden plot or individual containers helps you shed your winter weight in two ways. First you’ll get the exercise of tilling the soil and pulling the weeds, then you’ll reap the benefits of your harvest – nutritious, low calorie plants you can enjoy all summer long.See related story: Health Benefits of Starting a Garden


Clean the Cupboards

Losing the weight you’ve gained over the winter months is easier when your cupboards are free of the “high calorie clutter” still on the shelves. Be sure to remove anything that remains from your secret stash of Halloween candy, Christmas cookies and Valentine’s chocolates to begin your spring cleaning. See related story: Kitchen Makeover Means a Healthier Diet in the New Year


Buy More Berries

Spring is the start of berry season, and with it the chance to load up on these delicious little fruits that have so many benefits in very few calories. Their high fiber content helps keep you satisfied longer while their phytonutrients lower the risk for cancer, heart disease and stroke.


Use Paper Plates

Switching to a 9 inch paper plate for dinner is a great way to reduce the portion sizes you eat. Try it for a month to retrain your eye to recognize more appropriate serving sizes. You can also use an 8 ounce paper cup and 12 ounces bowl to replace the bigger cups and bowls you normally use. See related story: Serving Size, Portion Size, and Body Size Are All Connected


Start a Diary

Keeping a record of everything you eat and drink, and how much, is a tried and true method to control overeating. It makes you pay attention to each bite you take when you know you have to write it in your diary. See related story: Keeping Track of Food, Calories & Fitness Just Got Easier!


Specialize in Salads

If all you think of when you hear the word salad is a boring toss of iceberg lettuce and tasteless tomatoes, think again. There are endless combinations of colorful and crunchy vegetables that can be combined with lean protein sources and topped with flavorful dressings to make satisfying entrée salads that are anything but boring. See related story: Celebrate National Salad Month With Easy, Healthy, Delicious, Salads


Practice Good Posture

A much overlooked way to burn more calories is to stand instead of sit. Every minute you spend standing uses more energy than sitting, so take advantage of this practical way to lose excess weight. By adjusting your posture when you stand you can also improve your muscle tone and balance. See related story: Sitting Too Much Raises the Risk of Dying Sooner


Sleep Like a Baby

Research has shown that people who do not get enough sleep consume more calories than they need and have slower metabolisms. There are no short cuts to a good night’s sleep. It’s essential to good health and maintaining a healthy weight. See related story: Tired All the Time? 11 reasons Why (Besides Lack of Sleep)