Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

I have a great job that I love and I am grateful to be working but it is a night shift. I have worked nights for the first time for the past five years. My job is a moderately stressful job and I sleep about five hours each day on average. I eat healthy and very little meat, but I have noticed considerable weight gain that has been slowly creeping up. Could this be caused from lack of sleep?


Happy to be Working

Dear Happy to be Working,

You are fortunate that you have a job you love. You are accurate to suspect sleep as a culprit. Sleep does play an incredibly important role in your physical health. Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. A deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. When you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. This is the stress hormone that is frequently associated with fat gain. Most don’t realize that when you don’t get enough sleep, cortisol activates in your brain to make you actually want food!

The lack of sleep (generally less than six hours) causes your body to produce more ghrelin., the “hunger hormone.” Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight.

However, leptin is a hormone made by fat cells that decreases your appetite.

Eating unprocessed oatmeal before you go to sleep would be one of the best ways to boost your metabolism and decrease leptin resistance. Here are a few other foods you could include in your daily diet to help your hunger pangs.


Hot peppers

Lean proteins


Low-fat yogurt

Green tea


Our brain consolidates our memories, processes information and actually cleans itself while you sleep. It would be similar to charging your cell phone for only a few hours a night and running it all day, using up all the life of the battery. Recharging your phone a few hours will allow the phone to work for a while but will shut off much quicker than if it were completely charged.

Lack of sleep will weaken your immune system, so you may find that you catch a cold easily. Not surprising, it also affects our mental health because your brain is not getting cleaned or recharged. A scary disclosure, sometimes anxiety and depression are simply due to not enough sleep!

Love yourself enough to strictly abide by your sleep requirements and test how you feel with each different amount of sleep and document it. Some individuals don’t require eight or nine hours of sleep but can function on seven hours nicely.

Sleep deprivation is a chronic problem that can be easily altered. Be diligent; there are a thousand options to get enough sleep. Room darkening blinds, natural sleep remedies, white noise, pets sleeping with you or whatever it takes is worth the effort.

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