Sleep and Weight Gain

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Want to Avoid Gaining Weight? Get Good Sleep

First and foremost, if you want to avoid gaining weight, you need to have a holistic approach to do the obvious things. Things like having a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, avoiding sugary drinks, alcohol, and getting the recommended hours of sleep.

Causes of Inadequate Sleep

However, getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep may be a challenge for some, if not many. In fact, not able to get the recommended hours of sleep can be attributed to factors such as:

1.     Having to work late, or having a shift job, or even, regrettably, loss of a job

2.     Busy schedules stretched thin doing more things than you can manage

3.     Sleeping disorders like snoring

4.     Or, waking up frequently during the night

5.     Drinking caffeinated beverages later in the day or even before sleep

6.     Stress

7.     Watching television late into the night

8.     Lifestyle that stretches late into the night

9.     Not getting enough exercise

Regrettably, these factors become barriers to getting those recommended hours of sleep. On the other hand, one may ask, why should shortchanging sleep be bad. In fact, as explained below, shortchanging sleep frequently will cause you to put on pounds.

Endocannabinoid System

First and foremost, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is made up of receptor sites, known as CB1 and CB2, located on cell membranes. Moreover, these ECS receptors are present in almost every organ of the human body. For example, CB1 receptors are found in the brain and throughout the nervous system. While, CB2 receptors are found in the immune system.


Next, endocannabinoids are lipids (also referred to as fatty acids) that can modulate or affect changes. And, these endocannabinoids bind mainly to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain. As a result, they help modulate memory, mood, appetite, and pain.

Furthermore, studies suggest that endocannabinoids are under control of the circadian rhythm. By the way, the circadian rhythm is the natural process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle, repeating itself about every 24 hours. Therefore, under control of the circadian rhythm, these endocannabinoids promote phases of sleep known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, as well as Non-REM (NREM) sleep.

How Sleep Deprivation Effects Endocannabinoids

Now, studies show that sleep deprivation results in higher and more persistent levels of the endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Moreover, the endocannabinoid 2-AG significantly increases the pleasure of eating, especially eating sweet or salty high-fat foods.

Especially relevant, sleep deprivation has the same effect on eating as marijuana. In fact, both activate the endocannabinoid system. Incidentally, by morning, the levels of endocannabinoid 2-AG in well rested volunteers rose. On the other hand, levels of endocannabinoid 2-AG in the sleep deprived were nearly 33% higher when compared to the levels of endocannabinoid 2-AG in the well-rested volunteers.

In addition, levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG in the well-rested peaked around 12:30 PM. However, levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG in the sleep deprived, when compared with the well-rested, peaked 90 minutes later at 2 PM and remained elevated until about 9 PM. As a result, the sleep deprived found pleasure by eating sweet and/or salty high-fat foods. Which, in turn, caused them to put on weight.


In the meantime, researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep deprivation effected the endocannabinoid system, resulting in desire for food. Normally, for the well-rested, blood levels of endocannabinoid 2-AG are low overnight and rise during the day peaking in the early afternoon. However, when you are sleep deprived, endocannabinoid 2-AG levels rise higher and remained high through the evening and beyond the typical peak at around 12:30 PM in the afternoon. During that period, the study found, that the sleep deprived have a strong desire to eat. So, they ate twice as much fatty foods as compared with those who slept 8 hours.

Also, another study reported that each added hour of wakefulness burned about 17 extra calories. Consequently, 4 hours of lost sleep burned about 70 calories. However, by eating snacks the sleep deprived took in over 300 extra calories.


At the same time, as expected in the sleep deprived, levels of hormone ghrelin were high while levels of hormone leptin were low. And both these levels caused the sleep deprived to seek and eat fatty foods.


Now that its shown how sleep deprivation results in weight gain, what can you do about it. Regrettably, there may not be obvious or doable remedies for some of the causes of sleep deprivation. For example, sleep deprivation because of work related issues are hard to deal with. However, others can be managed.

For example, it may happen that there are times when you just have a hard time sleeping. In those instances, there are several things you can do to help you try to get to sleep. In fact, they range from cutting back on caffeine consumption after 2 PM to redoing the bedroom so that it promotes sleep. By the way, one of the methods to help you sleep is to exercise your legs. Most of all, when you exercise your legs, more blood flows to them and away from the brain. However, that late in the night, exercising may be the last thing you may want to do. And, in those situations you can lie down on the floor and let a machine move your legs. One of the benefits you get is that it may just help you sleep.

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