Lack of sleep and weight gain

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Sleep deprivation and weight gain

Studies over the years have shown that people who sleep less tend to weigh more.  This is because sleep deprivation can lead to a combination of increased caloric intake and reduced activity. Although science says there’s a very strong link between lack of sleep and weight gain it hasn’t yet found a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Our hormones and sleep

What scientists do know is that when we’re deprived of sleep our body moves into a different mode. Our metabolism slows down to help our body try to conserve energy stores and it also releases the hormone cortisol, a stress hormone which boosts our appetite because our body senses it needs more energy.

At the same time our body releases more ghrelin (the hormone that signals hunger) and experiences a fall in the hormone leptin (which tells us when we are full). With our hormones all mixed up we end up craving more food. Add to the equation the fact that  we’re awake for more hours in the day, this hormone cocktail can send us snacking into the late hours.

It’s quite common when eating late at night that we will choose high fat, high carb foods or, put another way, comfort foods. What we’re subconsciously doing is calming ourselves by releasing more serotonin (a hormone that promotes calm and contentment).

Sleep more to lose more body fat

Research has also found that during deep sleep, our brain secretes a large amount of growth hormone, which tells our body how to break down fat for fuel. If we don’t get enough sleep our body tends to store rather than burn fat.

For many middle-aged women sleep deprivation and weight gain could be linked as reduced sleep often results from menopausal symptoms and this may play a role in the weight gain commonly associated with the menopause.

On the subject of burning calories, it was found in one recent study that people who enjoyed a good night’s sleep burned the same number of calories 2600 per day as those who were sleep deprived.

But those people who were sleep deprived consumed on average 300 calories more each day. Now it takes 3,500 calories to put on that extra pound, so it doesn’t take much working out to see over a short period of time which direction our weight could be heading with those extra 300 calories per day.

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