Poor sleep has increasingly gained attention as a potential contributor to the recent obesity epidemic. The increased prevalence of obesity in Western nations over the past half-century has been paralleled by a severe reduction in sleep duration. Physiological studies suggest reduced sleep may impact hormonal regulation of appetite. Prospective studies suggest reduced habitual sleep duration as assessed by self-report is an independent risk factor for an increased rate of weight gain and incident obesity. Cross-sectional studies have demonstrated that the association between reduced sleep and obesity persists when sleep habits are measured objectively, that the association is as a result of elevations in fat and not muscle mass and that this association is not related to sleep apnoea. Thus, reduced sleep appears to represent a novel, independent risk factor for increased weight gain. Further research is needed to determine whether interventions aimed at increasing sleep may be useful in combating obesity.