Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep
Sleep is one of the many functions our body utilizes to maximize its productivity.
Yet, too many take advantage of the body’s ability to stay awake even when it is deprived. A rough night’s sleep not only worsens your mood and your alertness but it also contributes to your waistline.
Can lack of sleep cause weight gain?
Understanding how sleep affects hormones will shed some light on why you might be gaining weight.
The average adult needs seven and a half hours of sleep per night. However, only about 40% of adults in the US reach this recommendation.
Skipping sleep to accomplish more in your day might seem like a good idea at the time but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice the following day.
What’s the big deal?
Lack of sleep is known to impair alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving.
But aside from disrupting cognitive function and memory loss, sleep deprivation can actually cause you to gain weight as well. Getting less than 6-7 hours of sleep per night alters the hormones in your body that regulate hunger.
These hormones are called ghrelin and leptin. You may have heard of them before.
What do our hormones do?
Ghrelin is the hormone that signals hunger in the body and leptin is the hormone that signals satiety. When you are deprived of sleep your ghrelin levels increase and your leptin levels decrease.
The result is a hungrier, less satisfied you.
This is the rationale behind why sleep deprived individuals on average consume 300 extra calories per day than they would if they got adequate amounts of sleep. It only takes an extra 3,500 calories to add a pound of body weight.
Adding 300 calories extra per day will add an extra pound in just a little over a week.
The sleep deprived also consume more high fat, high carbohydrate foods than well-rounded meals.
Staying up a few more hours can lead to night time snacking – a time when your metabolism is running at its slowest. Your metabolism slows down to conserve energy and this slow down releases the hormone cortisol which stimulates hunger.
Cortisol is the stress-induced hormone that is produced by your body when it believes it is in danger. When you get limited sleep, your body sees this as a dangerous situation and releases more cortisol.
The release of cortisol stimulates your appetite because your body wants to consume more carbohydrates and fats to stock up on fuel for a fight or flight response.
Although you may know you’re not in danger, your body thinks differently
In response to this high stress situation, your body seeks out serotonin to calm you down. Your body will choose high calorie, high fat foods to elicit that serotonin-driven neurochemical reaction.
This may be why you’ll find yourself eating “junk” foods instead of healthy alternatives.
Let your body get the rest it needs to work effectively and efficiently. Getting REM – the deepest level of sleep – will recharge your brain and balance your hormones so you won’t get the weight gaining effect.
In order to get the best night’s sleep, make sure all of your lights are off, wake up at the same time every day, and don’t share your bed with your pet because they’re probably keeping you awake whether you choose to believe it or not!
Connect with Expert Bonnie Giller.