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What's Sleep Got to Do With Weight?

Tween girl sleeping You probably know that getting a good night's sleep helps you feel better in the morning. But when your day is packed with school and homework and everything else you have to do, it's hard to make it to bed on time to get enough sleep.

But here's why sleep is so important. Sleep resets your brain. When you sleep well, you can focus and pay attention in school. Sleep may also affect your weight.

How Sleep and Weight May Be Linked

There are many ways that sleep and weight may be related.

Sleepy kids aren't active. When you're tired, you don't have the energy to run around during the day. Exercise keeps you at a healthy weight.

Inactive kids can't sleep. It's actually harder to fall asleep if you aren't active enough during the day. This can have an unhealthy effect if you do it a lot. If there are many days that you don't exercise enough, your weight could go up more than it should. First, you don't exercise enough, which can make your weight go up. Then, not exercising enough makes it harder for you to sleep.

Big eaters can't sleep. How you eat -- especially right before bed -- can affect how you sleep. First, eating more than you need (like eating a big dinner or a lot of snacks after dinner) can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Next, when you eat a lot, you may find you can't sleep when you go to bed. You may have stomach aches, gas, or heartburn that keep you up. And caffeine that is in some drinks and food, like chocolate, can keep you awake when you want to sleep. Not getting enough sleep may make you tired the next day, so you don't feel like moving your body. If this happens a lot and you don't exercise, you may gain more weight than is healthy for you.

Sleepy kids are cranky. Being sleepy makes you cranky. People who are in a bad mood sometimes try to make themselves feel better by eating junk food like pizza and candy instead of healthy food like vegetables.

Kids who don't sleep enough have a hard time feeling full. While you're asleep, your body makes a hormone called leptin. Leptin tells your body that it's full after you've eaten. If you don't sleep enough, your body might not make enough leptin. Without enough leptin, your brain won't get the message that you're full, and you could eat way more food than your body needs to fuel itself.

Sleepy kids can feel hungry. Not getting enough sleep can also play tricks on your brain and make you feel hungry when you're really just tired. That's because when you don't get enough sleep your body makes a hormone that tells your brain it is time to eat. And eating when your body doesn't need food may lead to extra weight that your body doesn't need. When you're tired, sleep is best for your body and brain.

Overweight kids may not sleep as well. Being overweight may decrease how much you sleep. For one thing, your size may make it harder for you to get comfortable.