Poor sleep and weight gain: What is the connection?

Science and Health

Can a lack of sleep cause weight gain?

Poor sleep or lack of sleep can indeed contribute to weight gain. Studies have shown that when we sleep for six hours or less, there is a decrease in the satiety hormone and an increase in the hunger hormone. Additionally, fatigue leads us to consume more available energy throughout the day. In other words, when we are tired, we tend to eat more carbohydrates and fats to obtain energy.

Because sugars are quickly absorbed by the body, we find ourselves eating more. We cannot ignore the fact that when we are tired, calorie burning decreases. Since we have less energy when tired, we also burn fewer calories throughout the day, especially when engaging in physical activity.

What are the factors that may disrupt proper sleep?

First and foremost, hunger.

In my opinion, it is not advisable to go to sleep on an empty stomach with a growling belly. The feeling of hunger disrupts sleep quality. If a significant amount of time has passed since dinner until bedtime, it is worthwhile to eat something small like yogurt, a wrap, or a banana and not go to bed hungry. Similarly, a heavy and large meal may also disrupt proper sleep.

Lack of sleep hours (credit: INGIMAGE)

If you eat a meal an hour before bedtime and it hasn’t been digested yet, it can interfere with falling asleep and the quality of sleep.

I want to note that low-calorie diets reduce the body’s heat production, the ability to fall asleep, and cause fragmented sleep. This is in addition to the fact that lack of sleep contributes to increased calorie consumption the next day.


Nighttime physical activity increases heart rate and body metabolism. It continues for a few hours after activity and gradually decreases. Therefore, when you have trouble falling asleep, it is advisable to engage in physical activity four hours before going to bed.

At the same time, physical activity in the morning hours has been found to contribute to better sleep. In some people, caffeine can cause increased blood pressure and alertness.

It is advisable to try drinking coffee only in the morning hours for a week and avoid caffeine-containing beverages already from noon. This includes tea, green tea, cola, and energy drinks. If you want to drink something hot in the evening hours, you can try decaffeinated coffee or herbal teas. 

White sugar is quickly absorbed by the body and provides available and immediate energy. Therefore, in order to maintain sleep quality, it is advisable to try to avoid sweets, cookies, cakes, chocolates, juices, and anything concentrated with sugar starting from the early evening hours.

Body weight (credit: INGIMAGE)

Do you think it’s worth starting to eat every three hours to avoid snacking during the day?

Some theories suggest that it is advisable to eat every three hours even if not hungry. Pay attention to the following facts: there is no scientific evidence that eating every three hours reduces daily calorie intake. Previous studies argued that eating six meals throughout the day helps balance blood sugar levels, but recent studies have found that even among diabetics, some people do well eating two to three large meals during the day without snacking in between. Therefore, each person is different and there are no definitive rules.

Humans are not born with a clock on hand. What happens if we eat and feel hungry two hours after the meal? Should we wait and hold ourselves hungry for another hour? And what if we are very full and it’s been four to five hours? Should we force ourselves to eat?

Absolutely not. It is more important to listen to our body and its signals. But to truly listen and distinguish between a random craving and actual hunger.

chocolate (credit: INGIMAGE)

Does eating chocolate change your mood?

Recently, a study was published that I really liked in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, where cognitive tests were conducted on participants who received a dietary supplement containing cocoa extract. The goal of the study was to examine the impact of the many flavonoids found in cocoa on brain function and mood. It is known from previous research that cocoa reduces heart disease, but its effect on mood has not been thoroughly investigated yet.

Five hundred and seventy three participants in the study, with an average age of 70, received a cocoa supplement every day for two years. At the same time, another group received a placebo pill.

The results of the study showed that the cocoa extract did not improve brain function or mood. According to the researchers, those who have a poor diet and add chocolate to it do not improve their mental health or brain function, and this should be taken into account. It is advisable to prioritize a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables.