better sleep

Sleep and hunger: the flat belly connection

Think sleepless nights only affect your mental focus?  Think again.

Lack of sleep has been correlated with weight gain, and for a few very real reasons.

First, it’s important to understand the body’s appetite control system.  When you are running on empty and you need to fuel up, a hormone called grehlin is secreted in the gut.  This sends a signal to your mind and body that it’s time to eat.

So, you sit down to a meal, fuel up, and pretty soon, you’re loosening your belt and claiming total stuffedness.  This feeling of fullness is a result of the hormone leptin being released by fat cells and signalling your brain that it’s time to put down the fork.

These two hormones keep the body’s appetite in check.  When they’re working properly, you will never feel compelled to consume more food than you really need.

Unfortunately, they’re not working properly in most people.  Over-consumption of fructose, especially high fructose corn syrup, shuts off the leptin receptors, so we’re never quite sure when we’re full.

And, as it turns out, sleep plays a critical role as well.  Even one night of sleep deprivation, i.e. fewer than five hours, increases the secretion of grehlin, making us more hungry.  Even worse, sleep deprivation drives down leptin levels, so not only are we hungrier, but we don’t know when to stop eating, either.

In one Chicago study, sleep restriction resulted in a whopping 45% increase in cravings for sugar, starch and carbohydrates!

In a study conducted by Stanford, 1000 volunteers reported their sleep habits.  Researchers measured levels of leptin, grehlin and body fat, and, not surprisingly, those individuals who slept fewer than 8 hours per night had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of grehlin and body fat.

A word of warning, however: if you log more hours of sleep and still feel tired, you may, in fact, have undiagnosed sleep apnea, a condition that causes the soft tissue of the throat to collapse, interrupting sleep multiple times per night.  Those with sleep apnea are prone to snoring.  If you’re sleeping 8+ hours and still feeling tired, consult a medical doctor or sleep specialist to find out for sure if you’ve got sleep apnea.