Sleep Loss = Weight Gain?

Did you know lack of sleep can cause weight gain?  It is very important and essential for us to get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.  When we are sleep deprived, we tend to make bad choices and things get out of control which leads to a vicious cycle.  sleep coffee

What happens to you when you are tired at work?  Do you get yourself another cup of coffee or a soft drink or a quick sugary snack to pick you up and give you the extra boost you need to get through your workday?  Later in the evening do you grab fast food on the way home and skip your workout because you are too tired?  As you can see, this easily can become a vicious cycle that will increase your weight.

Sleep-Diet Connection

According to Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, “Sleep debt is like credit card debt.  If you keep accumulating credit card debt, you will pay high interest rates or your account will be shut down until you pay it all off. If you accumulate too much sleep debt, your body will crash.  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,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleepand the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.

On average, we need about 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night. If you are getting this already, another half hour will not help you lose 10 pounds, but if you are a five-hour sleeper and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.  How lack of sleep affects our weight has to do with our nightly hormones.  The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin.  Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.  Therefore, more ghrelin and less leptin equals weight gain.

What Can You Do to Help Sleep Deprivation

Even if you are getting 7-7.5 hours of sleep every night, if doesn’t matter if it is not good sleep.  Initially take a look at how much you sleep versus how well you sleep.  Trouble shoot both of these and figure out which is your problem and then improve your sleep routine by the following:

  • Make sure you go to bed at the same time each night
  •  Do not watch tv or read a book prior to going to bed (things that have the potential to stimulate you)
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening
  • Don’t exercise immediately before going to bed (but be sure to exercise because this does help sleep)
  • Watch what you are eating before bed and how much: don’t eat a heavy meal prior to bed; if you are hungry eat something lighter and a healthy snack

If you are getting enough sleep but do not feel rested, it is recommended you follow up with your physician and let him/her know this.  You may need to see a sleep specialist to determine why you are not waking up rested.

Why  Sleep is Important

Lack of sleep can reduce your body’s fat cells ability to respond properly to insulin.   Insulin promotes the release of leptin (as mentioned above), so if your fat cells are less insulin-sensitive, you will make less leptin.  Less leptin production will lead to an increase in food consumption and weight gain.

I would encourage you to really make an effort and focus on getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night and make sure you are waking and feeling rested.  If not, investigate why you are not getting enough sleep or why it is poor sleep.  Start making changes to your sleep routine or follow up with your physician.  Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT! Have a great weekend and I hope this helps you understand why sleep is actually a very important component of weight gain or loss.