Lack of Sleep Causes Obesity

picture of woman sleeping at work with head down on work due to a lack of sleep
When was the last time that you truly had a great night’s sleep? By great, I mean one where you had a few dreams, slept soundly through the night, woke up without an alarm clock, and felt energetic. If you’re like most Americans, a great night’s sleep is like winning the lottery – while it is technically possible, it does not come around reliably enough. The side effect of industrialization and the wide-spread technology of light bulbs means that our sleeping patterns have changed dramatically in the past century. Fixing your lack of sleep is a sure-fire method to accelerating your weight loss, improving your energy and reversing the effects of your diabetes.


Portrait of a young couple sleeping on bed not suffering from a lack of sleep

Getting good sleep is key to losing weight and reducing depression.



The naturally recurring pattern of altered consciousness that is sleep provides us with daily repairs to both our mind and body. Slumber is characterized by a general lack of movement of the physical body and voluntary muscles, but there are countless mechanisms hard at work on the biochemical front. There exists ongoing efforts on the study of sleep and we continue to learn more about this healing process every year through research. In humans (and mammals), the sleep cycle is divided into two modes – REM sleep and non-REM sleep. The acronym REM stands for rapid eye movement. During non-REM sleep the body releases growth hormones for cellular repairs and muscle growth. Also, the brain will replenish its supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during this mode, the transporter of chemical energy for metabolism. When sleep deprivation, or just lack of sleep, occurs these repair mechanisms are greatly reduced and any inflammation or diseases can worsen quicker.

The effects of lack of sleep extend far beyond the diminished bodily repair tasks during your night. Researchers have found a direct link between junk food cravings and sleep deprivation. The participants in this study reported greater hunger the following day after being intentionally deprived of sleep. During follow-up tasks, the researchers noticed a decrease in their cognitive abilities in response time and an increase in desires for junk food. They concluded that sleep deprivation provides “a mechanism through which sleep disturbances may promote obesity development.” Every night of poor sleep you get hedges the bets against you making good food choices the next day. It is speculated that humans have developed this mechanism over thousands of years, but without the presence of junk food. Whatever the stressors might have been to cause our ancestors to lose sleep – flooding, famine, tribal invasions, etc., the body reacted to these times of stress by telling the brain to reach for the most energy dense food possible. This theory seems to make sense. If you found yourself in a famine, nomadically wandering from place to place, eating rich foods would be the best for your survival. In modern times, that theoretical famine never comes, thus weight gain occurs.

lack of sleep infographic

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Obstructive sleep apnea is a severe case of a sleeping disorder and is a significant issue that demands prompt medical attention, especially for diabetics. It is estimated that 22 million Americans are afflicted with this disorder, most of whom are left undiagnosed. When left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and other cardio vascular diseases. Those people most at risk for sleep apnea are men, people who are overweight or obese and those over the age of 40. However, more cases are being seen in women and younger patients.

Lack of sleep is also linked to depression. A recent study at the University of Adelaide, by Dr Carol Lang, found that men with an undiagnosed sleeping disorder are four times more likely to have depression than those without a sleeping disorder. Dr Lang concluded that “our study found excessive daytime sleepiness and severe obstructive sleep apnea are both associated with the prevalence and onset of depression, and the presence of both is associated with an even greater risk.” Other studies have found that the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can result in a significant improvement of depression.


Man suffering from sleep apnea wearing a CPAP machine due to lack of sleep.

Using a CPAP machine is a reliable way to counteract sleep apnea and get out-of-control diabetes to stabilize and potentially reverse.


The main symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, moments of choking or gasping for air, and being tired throughout the day. Apnea means that your body’s breathing is either partially or completed blocked for several seconds. Factors that increase your risk of developing sleep apnea and lack of sleep are:

  • Being overweight or obese. The body fat around the neck and breathing passages can exhibit more force causing the blockage of airways.
  • Smoking cigarettes. The use of tobacco adversely affects you lung’s capacities. Nicotine can cause mucus to develop in the lungs, making it harder to breathe.
  • Neck circumference. Some people with larger necks can have more mass around their airways.
  • Being male. Men are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea compared to women. This is due to the physiological differences between the male and female anatomy.

Testing for sleep apnea is painless and straight forward. Ask your medical professional how they diagnose this lack of sleep disorder. The most common method is to do a sleep study, either at home or at a sleep clinic. If you are concerned that you may suffer from this disorder, consider doing an audio recording of your sleep during the night, from a smart phone or digital camera. The loud and frequent gasping episodes can be easily heard on a low-quality recording device. This preliminary test, albeit crude and unscientific, can prove your need for doing a comprehensive sleep study by a sleep clinic. Keep in mind that not everyone that snores has sleep apnea, but nearly all of those with sleep apnea do snore. The difference is that moment when breathing stops and then an audible gasp occurs.

Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together. — Thomas Dekker

Immediate treatment of those diagnosed with sleep apnea typically comes in the form of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This small device produces pressure through a mask worn on the patient’s face. It encourages breathing through the nose instead of the mouth. While no one has ever been excited to wear a CPAP to bed, it does produce remarkable results. It has been shown to greatly limit the progression of Type 2 diabetes. This helpful tool can allow you to make lifestyle changes that could result in weight loss. Dropping several pounds of body weight is one of the most reliable methods to get sleep apnea under control. Consider the CPAP as a temporary solution and a warning sign for the need to make changes to your nutrition and exercise habits.

Attractive girl relaxing in bath to prevent lack of sleep

One of the best things to do at the end of a stressful day is to relax with an epsom salt bath. A quick 20 minute soak before bedtime can reduce stress and slow your heartbeat.



The sleep needs of most adults is between 7-9 hours per night, as reported by the National Sleep Foundation. This is just an average, but listen to your own body. If you need 6 or 10 hours to feel well-rested by all means plan your schedule around that.

Our modern world presents challenges and obstacles to a good night’s sleep. A little planning and the right tools can skew the odds back to your favor for getting proper rest. Here are some of the most reliable means to improving your lack of sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom completely dark. Our body is triggered to wake up to the sunrise, so it is sensitive to any residual light throughout the night. Check out our links for blackout curtains, sleep eye-mask and memory pillows in our household resource section.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake. If you have suffer from lack of sleep, try eliminating or greatly reducing your coffee and tea intake. Even one glass of coffee in the morning can affect sleep some hours later. Caffeine interferes with your quantity and quality of sleep.
  • Eat better quality food. The proper eating of healing, whole foods can make your body function better than poor quality processed foods. It is easier to digest and can lead to improved biochemical functions during sleep. Subscribing to this diabetic meal plan is the easiest way to make sure you are on the right path for nutrition.
  • Reduce your screen time. The amount of time our society spends sitting and staring at screens these days is astounding. The stimulation of the blue wavelengths from screens signals daytime to our brains. Reading a conventional book or using a non-backlit reader with eInk eliminates this effect. Limit your screen time for a few hours before going to bed.
  • Take melatonin before bedtime. This supplement can help ease you into sleep. Typical dosage 1-3mg. Consult with your doctor beforehand.
  • Install f.lux on your computers, tablets, and phones. This free software is one of my favorites. It adjusts the colors on your screen depending on the time of day. It pulls the blue spectrum out at sunset to help you fall asleep easier.
  • Use a sunrise simulating alarm clock. This is one of the smartest designed alarm clocks sold in the world today. Instead of that horrible blaring of conventional alarms, this one gradually brightens the room with light to simulate your own personal sunrise. At the end of those 30 minutes, a gentle sounding alarm activates. Check out the Philips Wake-Up Light With Colored Sunrise Simulation Alarm Clock in our household resource section.
  • Keep your room cool. This tip is more for the summer months or those living in warmer climates. Those hot summer nights can make falling asleep challenging. Your body prefers a cooler temperature when it is not sweating.
  • Use your CPAP machine every night. As mentioned above, this helpful device aids greatly in getting diabetes under control. Be diligent about its nightly use and you will be rewarded with years added to your life in the future.
  • Buy a great bed and pillow. A bed is where we spend at least a third of our lives, so it makes sense to own one that is in good shape. Poor structure in old beds can result in uncomfortable sleep. The Memory Foam Pillow can help keep your neck and head comfortable and physiologically in the correct place for a good night’s rest.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet. If you struggle with loud neighbors or roommates, consider sleeping with ear plugs. Noise, like light, can cause you to waken.
  • Put your phone in airplane mode. If you are using your phone for an alarm, keep it from receiving signals that could wake you up. Getting quality sleep is much more important than being alerted by your FarmVille app at 2am.
  • Drink some chamomile tea. The essential oil, bisabolol, in the chamomile flower has several helpful properties. The anti-inflammatory and sedative effects of this tea are most important to diabetics.
  • Listen to calming music or white noise. It is possible to train yourself to fall asleep to music or white noise. The brain creates a mental connection with sleep to a fan running in the background or a sleep CD.
  • Take a relaxing bath. One of the best things to do at the end of a stressful or busy day is to relax with an epsom salt bath. Buy only epsom salts without fragrance and other potential hormone disrupting chemicals. A quick 20 or 30 minute soak before bedtime can reduce stress and slow your heartbeat. Add some lavender essential oil for added natural relaxation effects. The bonus of epsom salts is that it is a great way to get magnesium in your body.


Counting Hands for numbers of hours that would be a lack of sleep

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Has this article helped you learn more about the dangers of the lack of sleep? If you enjoyed this article, others may also find it useful. If we’ve earned it, can we kindly ask that you share this article online or through email? A referral is the greatest compliment a customer can give a business and we thank you for helping us spread the good word to the millions who suffer from this troubling disease.


Diabetic Lifestyle Advocate


I am the resident Diabetic Lifestyle Advocate at Five Hour Diabetic. Here I debunk conventional thinking about nutrition and exercise. My purpose is to enable diabetics to take back control of their health. And make simple recipes that honestly don’t suck.

Photos by Fotolia and Business Insider.