Trying to lose weight without much success? Let’s look into how your sleeping patterns might be involved. It may seem odd but there have been studies that suggested there is, indeed, a link between sleep and your weight. Not only how long you sleep, but the quality of that sleep can influence your appetite and your hormones. Another problem is sleep disruption which can also influence your weight.
It is well known that sleep has an influence on your hormones, but more recent studies have indicated that sleep has a major impact on appetite.
The production of leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that are of importance in relation to appetite. How much or how little we sleep is a major consequence of our appetites.
In the hormonal system, leptin and ghrelin control the feelings of hunger or of fullness. In other words, ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and increases the appetite and at the same time, leptin which is produced in the fat cells is responsible for sending messages to the brain that you are full.
Now, how does sleep have anything to do with this and weight loss? If you need sleep and do not get enough that causes leptin levels to fall – the result is you do not feel full when you have eaten. Inversely, when you lack sleep it causes ghrelin levels to climb and your appetite soars. You feel the need for more food. This is a perfect situation for weight gain.
There have been many studies questioning the relationship between leptin and ghrelin and their influence on body weight.
In one study, healthy men had their levels of ghrelin and leptin measured and notations were made regarding their hunger and appetite. The men were then subjected to two days of sleep deprivation and then two days of increased sleep. All the while they were monitored for hormone levels, activity, and appetite. The outcome of the testing indicated when sleep was restricted leptin levels fell and ghrelin levels increased. Interestingly, men’s appetite increased remarkably, especially for carbohydrate and high-calorie foods.
There was another study where 1,000 people recorded the number of hours they slept each night. Weight and levels of ghrelin and leptin were all measured and recorded. In the end, those persons who slept less than eight hours a night had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin. It was also noted that, surprisingly, they also had higher body fat levels. In this study, those who slept less weighed the most.
This does not mean people should stop exercising and spend that time sleeping. The jury is out at this time because the sleep/weight correlation does not appear to apply to everyone. This is because the level of the hormone does not matter as much as the individual response to it.
For instance, obese people often become resistant to insulin and in the same way people with sleep apnea may not get the fullness signal that leptin sends to the brain. The body signals are being ignored by the brain because of disrupted sleep.
If you sleep a lot and you increase your hours of sleep and feel more tired, you may be suffering from sleep apnea and you should consult your physician. Many thousands of people have undiagnosed sleep apnea. Lack of sleep for any reason is going to be detrimental to health.
Yet, another theory is that our environment, exercise, personal stress levels, diet, and genetics are what influences the production of leptin and ghrelin and our response to all of them is individual. Therefore, it is difficult to pin down exactly what gives between sleep and weight. More research is necessary to understand the relationship.
For now, experts agree that sleep and lack of sleep are factors that probably affect weight but they do not know all the answers at this time.
What is clear at this time, if you are dieting it could be beneficial to get another few hours of sleep each week. This is especially true if you get six hours of sleep or less. This might just result in being less hungry and eventually weighing less. Why not use every tool available when battling the war on fat and getting a few more hours of sleep may be the easiest tool to use.