Nutrition-wise blog

Sleep and energy balance — What's the connection?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. November 7, 2012

Do you faithfully journal your food and exercise? Have you ever tallied calories consumed and subtracted those burned only to be left wondering why your math doesn't equate to weight loss?

What are we missing in the energy equation? The answer might be the number seven. That's the number of hours of sleep recommended by the Healthy People 2020 goals.

Both the rate of obesity and the rate of sleep deprivation have increased in the U.S. in the past 30 years. The statistics are eerily similar: More than 35 percent of adults are obese and about 30 percent get less than 6 hours sleep a night (considered "partial sleep deprivation").

It turns out that beyond the drag and irritability that accompany lack of sleep, partial sleep deprivation has potentially negative effects on how the body regulates energy. The "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" recently published a review of research about partial sleep deprivation and energy balance. This review found that reduced sleep may:

  • Disrupt appetite hormones
  • Promote greater food intake
  • Reduce energy expenditure
  • Change body composition to favor more fat storage

What's the take-home message? Continue your healthy diet and exercise habits, but also try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. It just might be the missing factor in the weight loss equation.

Here's to sweet dreams,


Nov. 07, 2012