Sleep loss and weight gain

 Most of us would attest to the fact that sleep deprivation is a common phenomenon in the hustle and bustle of modern society. Sleep loss is often compensated by caffeine intake in the forms of coffee or various energy drinks to get us going. Did you know that cutting back on sleep can actually cause significant weight gain?

A normal adult requires a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per day whereas teenagers as well as children need several hours longer than adults as recommended by The National Sleep Foundation. For more information on the recommended sleep duration for different age groups, please find out here. 

Chronic sleep loss (typically less than 6 hours of sleep per day) can trigger a series of physiological changes which include hormonal imbalance, lowered metabolic rate and food craving leading to increased intake of food particularly those with high carbohydrate content. All of these are natural body responses which are aimed at conserving energy and offsetting the metabolic cost of prolonged wakefulness. Compounded by the fact that you are probably already too tired to exercise due to sleep loss, weight gain is imminent.  

More importantly, the metabolic dysregulation associated with prolonged sleep deprivation may also cause the development of insulin resistance which either result in the onset of Type 2 diabetes and/or exacerbate its progression leading to numerous long term complications 

So, before you decide to consistently skimp on your sleep just to get your work done or to have that extra fun, think of the long term health damage you are going to inflict on yourself. It is worth knowing that saving on sleep as shown by studies, can also affect your cognitive performance, which is actually counter-productive to your work. 

Remember that there is time for everything! The rule of thumb would be to work hard and play harder within the confine of optimum sleep duration as required by your age.  




  • Hirshkowitz et. al. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Journal of The National Sleep Foundation 1(1): 40-43. 
  • Penev PD (2012). Update on Energy Homeostasis and Insufficient Sleep .The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 97(6): 1792–1801. 
  • Beccuti, G., & Pannain, S. (2011). Sleep and obesity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 14(4): 402-412. 
  • Van Dongen HP, Maislin G., Mullington JM, Dinges DF. (2003). The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation. Sleep 26(2): 117-12. 


John Tiong
John Tiong

PhD, MPharm, RPh

A pharmacist, pharmacy lecturer and researcher. A critical thinker with fervor for thought sharing.

  1. Great article! I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately and have noticed a lot of negative health changes but didn’t realize that it could be due to lack of sleep. After reading this, I definitely realize just how much I’m messing with my body and it’s ability to work correctly. Thanks for the great reminder to get more sleep and take better care of myself!

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