Sleep and Weight

Thomas Richardson

Sleep and Weight


Have you ever heard that insufficient sleep maybe causing you to gain weight? Well, we are telling you this now!

Research tells the story. A study in the  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks. In another study done at the University of Chicago, sleep-deprived participants chose snacks with twice as much fat as those who slept at least 8 hours.

A second study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, increasing weight gain. And in a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.

Add it all together, and a sleepy brain appears to crave junk food while also lacking the impulse control to say no.

More than a third of Americans aren't getting  enough sleep on a regular basis. Yet experts agree that getting enough shut- eye is as important to health, well-being, and your weight as are  diet and exercise.

Skimping on  sleep sets your  brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the  brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control.


So it’s a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions.

Plus, when you’re overtired, your  brain's reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good. So while you might be able to squash comfort  food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep-deprived  brain may have trouble saying no to a second slice of cake.

Sleep is like  nutrition for the brain. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours each night. Get less than that, and your body will react in ways that lead even the most determined dieter straight to Ben & Jerry’s.

Too little sleep triggers a cortisol spike. This stress hormone signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours.

Translation: You’re more apt to hang on to fat.

Researchers found that when dieters cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, the amount of weight they lost from fat dropped by 55%, even though their calories stayed equal. They felt hungrier and less satisfied after meals, and their energy was zapped.

Sleep deprivation makes you “metabolically groggy," University of Chicago researchers say. Within just 4 days of insufficient ZZZs, your body’s ability to process  insulin -- a hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy -- goes awry.  Insulin sensitivity, the researchers found, dropped by more than 30%.

Here’s why that’s bad: When your body doesn't respond properly to  insulin, your body has trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, so it ends up storing them as fat.

A poor night’s sleep can leave you feeling foggy and drowsy throughout the day. Sleep deprivation has also been associated with higher risks of weight gain and obesity in recent years.

A group led by Drs. Erin Hanlon and Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago wanted to better understand how sleep and weight gain interact biologically. They noticed that sleep deprivation has effects in the body similar to activation of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, a key player in the brain’s regulation of appetite and energy levels. Perhaps most well-known for being activated by chemicals found in marijuana, the eCB system affects the brain’s motivation and reward circuits and can spark a desire for tasty foods.

The researchers enrolled 14 healthy, non-obese people—11 men and 3 women—who were 18 to 30 years old. The participants were placed on a fixed diet and allowed either a normal 8.5 hours of sleep or a restricted 4.5 hours of sleep for 4 consecutive days. All participants underwent both sleep conditions in a controlled clinical setting, with at least 4 weeks in between testing. For both conditions, the researchers collected blood samples from the participants beginning the afternoon following the second night. The study was supported in part by NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Results were published in the March 2016 issue of Sleep.

When sleep-deprived, participants had eCB levels in the afternoons that were both higher and lasted longer than when they’d had a full night’s rest. This occurred around the same time that they reported increases in hunger and appetite.

After dinner on the fourth night, the participants fasted until the next afternoon. They were then allowed to choose their own meals and snacks for the rest of the day. All food was prepared and served in the clinical setting. Under both sleep conditions, people consumed about 90% of their daily calories at their first meal. But when sleep-deprived, they consumed more and unhealthier snacks in between meals. This is when eCB levels were at their highest, suggesting that eCBs were driving hedonic, or pleasurable, eating.

Hanlon explains that if you see junk food and you've had enough sleep, you may be able to control some aspects of your natural response. “But if you're sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired. So you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds.”

Research suggests an association between sleep restriction and negative changes in metabolism. In adults, sleeping four hours a night, compared with 10 hours a night, appears to increase hunger and appetite — in particular for calorie-dense foods high in carbohydrates. Observational studies also suggest a link between sleep restriction and obesity. Other studies have found similar patterns in children and adolescents.

One explanation might be that sleep duration affects hormones regulating hunger — ghrelin and leptin. Another contributing factor might be that lack of sleep leads to fatigue and results in less physical activity.

So now you have another reason to get a good night's sleep.

Too summarize lack of proper sleep according to the research affects both the calories in and calories out side of the equation negatively when it comes to weight loss. This is why we have created PM Snooze Shred.

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