04/12/2016 08:12 am ET Updated Apr 13, 2017

14 Ways Lack of Sleep Can Be Causing Weight Gain

Science has confirmed time and again that fewer hours of quality shut-eye can affect your waistline. Sleep deprivation affects the brain in a way that makes you want to eat more and not process food efficiently. It sparks a vicious cycle where you are left feeling tired, slowing your metabolism and playing tricks with your hormones.

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Ways Lack of Sleep is Causing Weight Gain

All of this leads to you eating more, and the rotation continues, Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, says. "By sleeping less, you are programming your body to eat more," she adds.

An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, which is often associated with people who are overweight according to the National Sleep Foundation. "As the person gains weight, especially in the trunk and neck area, the risk of sleep-disordered breathing increases due to compromised respiratory function," say Margaret Moline, PhD, and Lauren Broch, PhD, two sleep specialists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Feeling lethargic leads to poor food choices, other studies have found -- you eat more junk food, fewer vegetables and fruits, and drink more soda. Fatigue is often confused as a sign of hunger. You can end up consuming a lot more calories, but don't burn them by exercising because you feel too tired. The result can be about two extra pounds a month.

So next time you wonder why you're not seeing the results of your healthy eating and workout habits, be mindful of your sleep patterns. Do you get just about five hours in bed every night, or do you stay up for late night snacking?

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-- Hristina Byrnes, The Active Times

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