How sleep deprivation makes you fat
Fact: losing sleep causes you to gain weight. Not exactly the best trade-off. The fact that sleep deprivation is bad for you should come as no real surprise. Everybody knows that you need sleep. Of course, this has not done all that much to actually get people to bed on time and for long enough. New research, however, continues to show the numerous links between a lack of sleep and undue weight gain.
Poor sleep choices make for poor food choices
If you’re not getting the proper amount of sleep each night (YouPlus recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly), you’re setting yourself up for trouble in your waking hours. While not full on sleep drunkenness, even missing out on a little sleep can leave your brain operating at less than 100%. This means your decision-making ability is disrupted. How much exactly is hard to gauge but numerous studies, including this one from Clemson University, have found that sleep deprivation hinders impulse control.
Another study, this one published in the journal Obesity, found that sleep-deprived grocery shoppers bought more food, and with higher average calorie counts, than their well-rested counterparts.
Poor food choices aren’t only related to bad shopping, your brain is also tricking you into thinking that’s what you need. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is found in higher concentrations in people with sleep deprivation. This means you actually “feel” hungrier than normal, and your brain is causing you to crave foods higher in sugar and fat.
Gaining weight instead of sleeping
While myriad studies all point at the biological disruptions caused by sleep deprivation, it’s important to note that you’re spending time awake when you’re not sleeping. OK, obviously you’re awake, but since you’re more likely to eat unhealthy snacks after dinner, pushing that timeframe beyond your bedtime exacerbates the problem.
One study conducted by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that participants ingested an average of 1,000 more calories during the periods when they should have been sleeping. It seems plausible that eating more at night would simply curb your appetite the following day, but that has not proven to be the case. Sleep-deprived subjects consumed just as many calories the next day as those who hadn’t been snacking overnight.
The good news
After all that disheartening science, you should know that research has also detailed plenty of benefits to the connections between sleep and weight. Once you begin adjusting habits and routines to optimize how healthy they are, good sleep can help weight loss and vice-versa. If you’re having trouble sleeping, then exercise and weight loss have been shown to help you sleep. By improving your metabolism, along with a host of other effects, proper sleep will improve your weight-loss success.
If you’re looking to take advantage of good sleep in order to bolster other areas of your health, understanding sleep hygiene is a good start. There are tons of little refinements you can make to your habits to build up big benefits. Since sleep deprivation leads to weight gain, it’s worth your time to get at least 7 (and definitely no less than 6) hours of sleep every night. You’ll feel less stressed, more energized, and lighter on your feet.
Originally published at youplus.com.