Most of us are already aware that not getting a good night’s sleep can have a lot of ill effects on our health, but did you know that losing quality Z’s can actually make you gain weight, too?
Effects on the Body
According to WedMD, weight gain resulting from sleep deprivation is driven by an interrelationship of two specific hormones known as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells each of us that we are hungry when our body senses that it needs more nutrients. Leptin is the counterbalancing hormone that makes us stop eating when our body realizes it’s had enough.
The problem with not getting a good night’s sleep is that it throws these two essential hormone’s relationship out of whack. When our body is sleep deprived, it triggers the release of more ghrelin (making us feel hungry) and slows down the release of leptin (telling us to stop eating).
As clarified by Michael Breus, Ph.D., “It’s not so much that if you sleep you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly.” He adds, “If you are a five-hour sleeper and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.”
Choice of Food
Research conducted in mice demonstrated how this hormonal relationship plays out in our eating habits. According to one study, “changes to the metabolisms of the mice made them crave more high-fat food and saw the rodents begin to eat at the wrong times in the day, eat multiple lunches and have midnight snacks, making them obese.”
Human research trials have showed similar results. In one such study, regular sleep deprivation caused men to prefer higher-calorie foods, which resulted in higher overall daily calorie intake (and weight gain). Another study showed that women getting less than six (or more than nine) hours of sleep each night tended to be 11 pounds heavier than those who regularly got seven hours of sleep.
These numbers all pretty intriguing, but how many of us can say we always get the same amount of sleep every night? Sure, we might make an effort to go to bed at nearly the same time and wake up at the same time every day, but there are inevitably reasons why we take longer to get to sleep (or wake up to use the bathroom) that impact how much quality sleep we actually “net”.
The Solution Is Quality Sleep
Nevertheless, the Endocrine Society (the world’s largest organization dedicated to hormone research) has found that even just getting 30 fewer minutes of sleep than recommended can significantly increase your risk of obesity and diabetes. 30 minutes per day isn’t very much, which suggests that maybe we really can be leaner and healthier just by changing the way we approach our overall sleep environment.
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