How Sleep Deprivation Alters your Metabolism

Sleep deprivation has a number of negative long term effects on the body. One of these effects is the increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Scientists are working on understanding the connection between metabolism and sleep and the impact it has on weight gain.

Bad nutritional choices was assumed to be the cause for the link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Working night shifts often means less time to prepare healthy meals and to workout.

Additionally, being awake late at night can intensify the urge to snack on fatty or sugary foods. But there is more to the story than that. Hormones play a big role in sleep and appetite.

Hormones, sleep and health

Sleep is hormonal symphony, hormones induce sleep, and sleep influences hormones. When you don’t get enough sleep, hormonal changes increase the risk for some serious health problems such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Hypogonadism (low testosterone in men)

Sleep deprivation and hunger

Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for the feeling of hunger. When sleep deprived, Ghrelin secretion increases, and when this hormone increases, so does your hunger. Often, this can cause you to crave bad foods and high calorie snacks. But more than this, this hormone also has an effect on fat cells, making you store more fat.

Sleep deprivation and weight gain

In this study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists highlighted at relationship between sleep deprivation and weight gain. Like this, there are growing numbers of study’s that are understanding the link between sleep and metabolism.

This study adds to an already growing list of research in this field. Scientists are starting to build a picture that helps us understand the impact of sleep on metabolic function. The long term effects of sleep deprivation on hormones is painting a picture of the molecular changes it causes in tissues. The outcome is a reduced muscle mass and weight gain.

This study took 15 healthy people (with a normal BMI). Each participant was randomly assigned to an 8 hour sleep session one night, and were kept awake for another night.

After each night both blood sugar levels and small tissue samples of fat and muscle were taken for analysis.

Note: Subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle are two areas of the body that are considered to be impacted by sleep deprivation.

The study found that when sleep deprived there were metabolic changes in these tissues seen. These changes were found in DNA methylation, resulting in these tissues absorbing more fats.

In comparison, the muscle tissue, demonstrated a reduced levels of structural proteins. Making muscle mass is much harder to build.

Studies like this one are important to help us understand the impact of sleep and the risk weight gain. This study replicated night workers sleep patterns, demonstrating the impact it has on metabolic processes related to weight gain.

Note: Considering this study observed one night of sleep deprivation, it would interested to see more studies like this with longer term sleep loss.


Everything in the body is interconnected. Metabolism and weight loss is about the whole package and not just one thing. There are a number of factors that you can control that have an impact on your metabolism. Sleep is certainly up there on the list of controllable factors that impact your metabolism.

Nutrition and exercise also play a major role in your metabolism. But, they is also important in DNA methylation. By ensuring a well rounded diet and keeping active, you are keeping yourself ‘protected’.

A good diet and exercise can help speed up your metabolism and possibly counteract the adverse effect on your metabolism from sleep deprivation.

Of course, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you get enough sleep!

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