How Sleep Affects Weight and Weight Affects Sleep – A Vicious Cycle

There’s no denying that sleep is important for children in regard to their ability to focus, grow, develop, and stay in a good mood. Still, it’s been reported that almost half of children in the United States do not get at least 9 hours of sleep, leaving many of them sleep deprived.

This lack of sleep not only causes difficulties during school, but it can also cause health complications. For example, inadequate sleep is linked to childhood obesity and can have long-term consequences if not managed. However, even though getting enough sleep helps children keep a healthy weight, being of a higher weight can make sleep difficult to come by, perpetuating the cycle of poor sleep and weight gain.

Symptoms Of Poor Sleep

As adults, we all know what it feels like to not get enough sleep, but it can be harder to notice the signs in our children.

Some of the most common symptoms of poor sleep include:

  • temper tantrums
  • moodiness
  • irritability
  • daytime naps
  • over-activity and hyperactive behavior
  • grogginess when waking up in the morning
  • not wanting to get out of bed in the morning

The Relationship Between Poor Sleep and Weight

Based on these symptoms, it’s clear that going to bed too late can affect a child’s mood and behavior, but it can also affect their weight. 

One study found that children who went to bed later had worse diet quality and consumed fewer fruits and vegetables and more nutrient-poor foods.

Sleep loss also creates a hormonal imbalance in the body by affecting leptin and ghrelin, two hormones responsible for regulating appetite. When children don’t sleep enough, these hormone levels change and increase their feelings of hunger, which can cause them to overeat.

Helping Your Child Create Healthy Sleep Habits

Now that we know how important sleep is for helping children keep a healthy weight, it’s time to focus on how you can help your child get enough sleep. 

The best way to do this is by implementing a bedtime routine, such as brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, reading a book, etc. By following the same routine each day, your child’s body can prepare for sleep.

How Screen Time Can Affect Sleep in Children

Another important part of a bedtime routine is what to avoid. 

Screens emit blue light, which can suppress the body’s production of melatonin. Melatonin is the sleepiness hormone that helps you fall asleep, so screens can then make it harder to feel sleepy and fall asleep.

To ensure your child has an easier time falling asleep, turn off all screens at least one hour before bed.

When To Seek Help

While poor sleep can cause weight gain, obesity can also complicate sleep, sometimes manifesting as sleep disorders. One such example is insomnia, or trouble falling and staying asleep, which is more often reported in those with a higher weight.

Sleep apnea can also be more common in those who are overweight, which causes the airways to become blocked and affects sleep quality.

If your child struggles to fall or stay asleep or exhibits loud snoring and episodes of stopped breathing during the night, reach out to their doctor.

Halting the Poor Sleep/Weight Gain Cycle

The relationship between sleep and weight can seem like a never-ending cycle, but never forget that you have the power to positively change your child’s life and well-being. By getting your kids into a good sleep routine, no matter their age, you can help regulate their mood, behavior, and food cravings, setting them up for a brighter future.

This information does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for seeking professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please see full disclaimer.


  1. Children Don’t Get Enough Sleep: Serious Health Problems. (2023). from
  2. Golley, R., Maher, C., Matricciani, L., & Olds, T. (2013). Sleep duration or bedtime? Exploring the association between sleep timing behaviour, diet and BMI in children and adolescents. International Journal Of Obesity, 37(4), 546-551. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.212
  3. Greer, S., Goldstein, A., & Walker, M. (2013). The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nature Communications, 4(1). doi: 10.1038/ncomms3259

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