Not Sleeping Enough Could Make You Fat and Antisocial: Part 1

Sleep affects your health in all kinds of ways; it’s not just all about diet and exercise. But getting enough sleep is in the same category as getting enough sunlight, lowering stress levels, and giving up Diet Coke: they’re all crucial to health enlightenment and yet they’re all regularly ignored by health seekers. Why does being healthy have to be so damn… life-altering?

It’s enough that you have to scrap the pasta, tofu, and cheddar cheese. Now you have to sleep more on top of it all. Who has the time? When you have 2 kids, an 8am-6pm job, a Paleo diet to maintain, CrossFit WODs to crush, backyard chickens to pamper, farmers markets to stroll, and reality TV to watch, that doesn’t leave many hours for sleeping. You’ll sleep when you’re dead.

But you may want to re-think how you’ve apportioned your daily hours because getting more sleep may just be the key to you losing those last 10 (50?) pounds. Or increasing your energy levels, turbo-charging your will to exercise, or finally ditching the Viagra. It may even help you eat better. Ever notice how when you’re tired you’re more prone to snacking? I know that if I get fewer than 8 hours of sleep, I’m tired, hungry, and grumpy, and I certainly don’t feel like exercising.

How much sleep do YOU get?

American Sleeping Trends
I know that a large percentage of you get fewer than 8 hours (the gold standard) of sleep a night. In fact, according to a 2009 Sleep In America poll done by the National Sleep Foundation, the average American sleeps about 6 hours and 40 minutes per night, from about 11pm to 6am on weekdays. Weekends aren’t much better with an average of about 7 hours and 7 minutes of sleep from about 11:25pm to 7am. My question is why would anyone ever wake up at 7am on a Saturday?? And this is just when people’s designated sleeping hours are – not necessarily when they’re actually asleep because according to the study, 64% of people have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep at least a few nights a week. Also, since 2002 the trend has been a decrease in number of hours slept. More people are reporting sleeping fewer than 6 hours and fewer are reporting sleeping at least 8.

Here’s why you should get some sleep.

Compared with people in the study who slept for 8 or more hours regularly, the people who got fewer than 6 hours of sleep were less likely to do the following:

do fun things
be satisfied with their lives
have sex
eat well
eat breakfast
eat 3 meals a day
work efficiently and well
eat 4 servings of fruits and veggies a day

And they were more likely to do the following:

be obese
miss family functions (this is where the anti-social part of the title comes from)
drink caffeine
eat sugary foods
eat unhealthily

So that’s an overview of the sleep habits in America. If you’re interested, check out that study – it’s incredibly interesting and telling.

Where are you in this whole thing? Do you find yourself craving sugary foods every day, not having the energy for everyday things, or not being able to make it through the day without caffeine?  In the next blog post, I’ll cover what actually happens in your body when you don’t sleep enough. Then we’ll go into how to get more sleep, or at least how to improve the sleep you do get, and how your Paleo diet (or not) affects your sleep.




  1. Everyone talks about the importance of getting more sleep… but few talk about how to tackle the problem of not being able to sleep and how to determine the potential cause(s) of the problem. I’m having a terrible time getting enough sleep, but not because I stay up too late or because I don’t make it a priority, but that I often wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep for a couple of hours. Never used to have this problem until I started hitting middle age. I’ve tried different natural solutions, eating differently, eating a complex carb/protein before bed to avoid a blood sugar drop, avoiding caffeine, sugar, etc., etc., and have yet to really figure it out. *Sigh*

  2. The best way is not to worry about it. If you decide that you must go to bed at a certain time and have so many hours sleep you are setting yourself up to have sleep problems.

  3. I have been eating Paleo for ten days now (and totally falling in love! feeling it is the perfect nutritional/lifestyle match for me). Besides detox symptoms like sore throat and nauseau, the one thing that has been irritating is my sleeping… Some nights I sleep eleven hours, till as late as one in the afternoon, and a couple nights I have not been able to fall asleep till six am or at all! I have always been a great sleeper and try to get at least eight hours a night – having difficulty falling asleep is unusual for me. Could it be that I need to try to stick to a regular sleep schedule, maybe going to bed earlier and rising earlier? Also wondering if this could have to do with my blood sugar levels, as they are very sensitive and I have PCOS…

    1. Tara – Are you drinking caffeine? That usually messes with people’s sleep more than anything, especially now that your blood sugar levels are probably evening out and you may not “need” caffeine anymore. But also remember that it’s only been 10 days and your body is still adjusting. Give it some time and just try to take it easy as much as possible!

  4. Thanks Neely, yeah, that makes sense that it could be part of my body still adjusting… I’m a Boulderite as well, and my body has so much energy now it could take me for runs thru those mountains all day long! Which is nice, just learning how to exist with all this energy …
    And I didn’t drink caffeine for a week, which felt fine, then I tried a coconut milk latte this morning actually, and body was not so thrilled with that choice.. I totally do not need the caffeine for energy. It’s just a rather comforting ritual I adopted to get me thru my last semester in school. I am grateful my body is letting me know to let it go. And I have been quite inspired by reading your posts on caffeine as well :)

    1. Tara – You’re a Boulderite?! Cool! So, if you just gave up caffeine recently, your body could definitely be going through some whacky stuff during the detox process, including weird sleep. That’s really common. That’s awesome you gave it up and that you no longer need it – nice work! And yes, I mean just don’t go too nuts with exercise for a week or so while your body is adjusting. It’s stressful to go through this adaptation, so good rest and sleep is crucial. But if you’re saying that you do better with a lot of exertion, then maybe I’m wrong about that. Do what feels good to you – but really tune in and see what your body wants.

  5. And when you say take it easy, are you suggesting minimal/low impact exercise? Because like I said in previous comment, my body has sooo much energy, it just needs to move, and with a good amount of exertion..

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