Sleep is the foundation for everything

Before I get into the reasons why sleep deficiency could be contributing to your weight gain I will firstly make an all out attack on the people from my industry who cannot wait to jump down my throat with the age old stuck record of…

“Being in a calorie surplus makes you gain weight. It’s the only reason you gain weight. Move more, eat less.”

I know that.

The question though is “Why do we eat more than we move?” WHY? That is the important question. That is the only question worth answering because simply telling people to expend more energy than they consume is useless advice. The increasing obesity rates are testament to that. Move more, eat less – yes the world is full of success stories following only those instructions!

As I mentioned in my last blog, sleep is the foundation for everything. For all matters of health I will advise to get your sleep in order first.


So then, is your lack of sleep making you gain weight? Why might it be?

Several studies, particularly from Dr Eve Van Cauter, have proved that sleep deprived people will consume more food than when they have slept fully. Of particular note is one of these studies that looked at the roles of two hormones in our body, leptin and ghrelin. The former – leptin – is a hormone that signals satiety or feelings of fullness, whereas when levels of the hormone ghrelin are high they signal increased appetite. What was proven was that in sleep deprived people leptin was low and ghrelin was high and in well slept people the opposite occurred meaning they felt full and were not hungry.

Now simply “feeling” full or hungry is no proof of actually consuming more food but in a further study, Dr Van Cauter went on to show that people who slept 4.5 hours would routinely consume 300 calories per day more than when they had slept 8 hours. Taking into account weekends and holidays if we regularly sleep too few hours then that could amass to an extra 70,000 calories per year or an extra 10 to 15 pounds in body weight.

What’s more, the less sleep an individual has, the more tired they become and therefore the less willing and less able they are to participate in vigorous exercise. Inadequate sleep then appears to be the perfect recipe for weight gain.

As I mentioned earlier, I am now placing “how is your sleep?” at the beginning of everybody’s health questionnaire because it is so important.

The excellent book “Why We Sleep” by Professor Matthew Walker is a great read that could possibly change your life for the better and I would recommend this to anybody whatever their goals in life are.

Sleep is amazing and hey, it’s a lot more enjoyable (for most people) than heavy dead lifts or sprinting!


sleep fitness