Does Less Sleep Mean More Fat?

Susan Patterson

Do you, like millions of other Americans burn the candle at both ends, staying up until all hours of the night and rising early to meet work, family or social obligations? If so, you may be jeopardizing your health more than you know.

A number of recent studies report that too little sleep can alter fat cells leaving you at risk for a number of serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Sleep deprivation makes people cranky, foggy headed and reduces motor skill activity substantially; this has been a known fact for years. Lack of quality shut eye also makes us hungrier as it increases hormones controlling the hunger response while decreasing those that signal to the brain that we are full. This can easily lead to over-consumption and weight gain.

Sleep and Insulin

However, it has not been until just recently that scientists have been able to pinpoint that lack of sleep actually reduces the ability of cells to respond to insulin. Insulin is essential for the regulation of energy stores. Bottom line, our fat cells need sleep to do their job correctly. When they do their job correctly they store fat for future use and help to remove fatty acids and lipids form the body. However, when we don’t give our fat cells what they need, in this case sleep, they stop responding to insulin and allow lipids to ooze out into the body where the build up in tissues such as the liver. In addition, proper insulin response is necessary for the body to release leptin, which makes you feel full. If your fat cells are sluggish, less leptin is produced, and you eat more.

How Much Sleep is Needed?

The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to function well. Most people land somewhere around 8 hours and do just fine. This sleep must, however, be quality, uninterrupted sleep. Sleep experts recommend a regular sleeping schedule, this way the body can get into a rhythm. It is best to get to bed early and rise early as opposed to getting to bed late and rising late. Aim to be asleep by 11pm and up by 7pm. Getting too much sleep has also been associated with health risks, so try not to stay in bed late, even if you can.

Getting Proper Rest

Are you up late on your computer, phone or watching television? This could be part of the reason why sleep does not come easy, especially if you are doing these things in bed. Research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that the body produces less melatonin, the sleep hormone, when it is exposed to the light from a computer, especially tablets. They recommend turning off all technology at least a little while before going to bed and listening to some music or reading instead.

Setting a bedtime routine can also help promote sleepiness. Anything that will relax you is a good activity to try. This may include deep breathing exercises, a warm bath, and the use of essential oils such as lavender. Be sure to eat your last meal at least three hours before bedtime and avoid heavy late night snacking including caffeine. Take the time to really focus on your sleeping habits and make changes to be as relaxed as possible in the evening hours so that you can relax and sleep well. Your belly will thank you!

Sources for this article include:

About the Author: Susan Patterson is a natural health writer with a passion for living well. Her writing includes regular contributions to some of the most visited health and wellness sites on the internet, e-books, and expert advice sites. As a Certified Health Coach, Master Gardener and Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor, Susan has helped many people move towards a better understanding of alternative health options. Susan practices what she writes and is an avid fitness enthusiast, whole foods advocate and pursuer of sustainable living. To read more articles by Susan, please visit
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