Maybe the Chubby Hubby isn’t the Problem…

man-eating-chips-400x267We’d all like to lose a few (okay, maybe not all–there are a blessed few out there completely content with your body size–damn you all! 😉 ). We assume that it’s that extra cookie that we add on at the Starbucks counter, or when we bow to temptation and take that late night jaunt to the drive through at Mickey D’s, but what if the real culprit isn’t that juicy burger, your sugar fix, or that bag of barbeque Lays?

What if, the real culprit is not food at all, but the amount of sleep you’re getting at night? According to Shape magazine, it might be sleep undermining all your weight loss efforts.

article-2538937-1AA3DA7400000578-149_634x706The debate about the best way to achieve a healthy weight always revolves around eating and movement. If you want to look better, the most common suggestion is “eat less and move more.” But it’s not that simple, or even accurate. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it seems impossible to do so. And there might be a good reason: Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to sleep enough. Or maybe, more importantly, you don’t realize that sleep is the key to being rewarded for your diet and fitness efforts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of people are sleep deprived. And when you consider that the statistic for obesity is nearly identical, it’s easy to connect the dots and discover that the connection is not a coincidence.

Can sleep possibly be a contributing factor in our body size?

According to the Mayo clinic, yes, “it might be. Recent studies have suggested an association between sleep duration and weight gain. Sleeping less than five hours — or more than nine hours — a night appears to increase the likelihood of weight gain.”

That there is a correlation between insufficient sleep and obesity appears undeniable.

When considering the bulk of research on the subject, the Harvard School of Public Health states:

Most studies that measure adults’ sleep habits at one point in time (cross-sectional
studies) have found a link between short sleep duration and obesity…The largest and
longest study to date on adult sleep habits and weight is the Nurses’ Health Study,
which followed 68,000 middle-age American women for up to 16 years. Compared to
women who slept seven hours a night, women who slept five hours or less were 15
percent more likely to become obese over the course of the study.


Whether the lack of sleep is actually causing the weight gain, or is the by product of some other X-factor is where things become a little bit sticky.

nighttimeSome believe that the lack of sleep does not directly cause the weight gain, but rather predisposes us to make poor decisions that indirectly are causing the weight disparity. Web MD puts it this way:

It’s true: Being short on sleep can really affect your weight. While you weren’t sleeping, your body cooked up a perfect recipe for weight gain. When you’re short on sleep, it’s easy to lean on a large latte to get moving. You might be tempted to skip exercise(too tired), get takeout for dinner, and then turn in late because you’re uncomfortably full. If this cascade of events happens a few times each year, no problem. Trouble is, nearly two-thirds of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep during a typical week …Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control….So it’s a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions.
However, others think the lack of sleep might be playing a more direct role. The Mayo clinic explains it this way:One explanation might be that sleep duration affects hormones regulating hunger — ghrelin and leptin — and stimulates the appetite. Another contributing factor might be that lack of sleep leads to fatigue and results in less physical activity.

Whether lack of sleep is directly or indirectly causing those love handles you despise, it is a factor in their existence.

So, tonight, when you’re tempted to watch just one more episode of your choice on Netflix, or drink that frappuccino after 6 pm, you might just want to resist. Your waistline will say thank you.


7 thoughts on “Maybe the Chubby Hubby isn’t the Problem…

  1. Thank you for this interesting read! I did not know that there was a relationship between sleep and obesity. This is a perfect example of how correlation does not imply causation. It is important to know this because otherwise, one would think that optimal sleep would ensure weight loss or the prevention of obesity. Well, that is just not the case! One would still have to make better health choices such as eating better and exercising. Other variables play into this correlation which is why you can not assume that sleep itself is what causes weight loss. People who tend to be healthier by nature like to eat healthy foods, exercise and practice better sleep patterns, while those who work out less and eat junk food a lot of the time are probably more likely to be equally careless about the sleep they are getting.

    Jessica Bell – class C04

  2. Hello Professor Graham, this is Darya Morey from General Psychology C04. Again! I love this one! I am a big go-getter for a good amount of sleep. I do believe what you put into your body does influence some of the outcomes BUT the amount of sleep you have in a week or the amount of stress can greatly affect how your body reacts. Your body is like a car and it you put cheese in the gas tank don’t expect it to work, if you don’t take the time to properly fix and maintain the car, don’t expect it to work. Sleep is the same way . If you don’t give your body the time it needs to fix its self you aren’t going to get the best results. People are so fast paced today and don’t put the right nutrias into their body’s, then try and run themselves till the fall over and collapse on cheeseburgers as an energy source. Leaving their body with nothing good to heal its self during your small light sleep. I’m not saying I’m a crazy fit healthy organic-crazed woman. But I do rely that when I don’t sleep and don’t eat right things tend to get a little crazy! Love that people are relishing how important sleep can be to an individual’s life. Sleep is for the not weak. But Healthy and fit individuals.

  3. Professor Graham,
    This is Bailey Prince from General Psyc, 2301.C03.
    People really don’t realize just how important it is to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is a real thing and it may not “cause” obesity but it doesn’t help it either. This is a prime example of when we went over Causation and correlation. So a lack of sleep is not the causation of obesity but rather a correlation. People don’t realize that even while you are sleeping you burn calories, so when you aren’t sleeping you are losing the chance to burn calories. However with the correlation of a lack of sleep, you have what food you fuel your body with, and how much you exercise that is all a correlation of obesity.

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