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The sleep-weight connection

Apparently, we’re not sleeping as much as we used to. More than a third of adults report sleeping less than 7 hours a night. And that’s a fairly new development. We’re sleeping significantly less than we were 20 or 30 years ago.

It’s not hard to imagine why. “It’s due to light, our gadgets, noise in the neighborhood, stress, people working two jobs,” says Erin Hanlon, assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago. “The list of reasons goes on and on.”

But the consequences of not getting enough sleep are much greater than nodding off while sitting at your desk. New research is showing how too little sleep can affect our health, starting with our waistlines.

Weighty Issues

Trouble sleeping? Don't go to bed with your gadgets.
Trouble sleeping? Don’t take your gadgets to bed with you.

“Studies have consistently associated insufficient sleep with an increased risk of obesity,” notes Hanlon.

For example, researchers tracked more than 68,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1986 to 2002.1 “We found that women who reported less sleep—5 or 6 hours—gained more weight than those who reported getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep,” explained Sanjay Patel at a recent National Academy of Medicine webinar on “The Potential Role of Sleep in Obesity Prevention and Management.” Patel is the director of the Center for Sleep and Cardiovascular Outcomes Research at the University of Pittsburgh.


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