Lose Sleep, Gain Weight?

See what people are saying about this article on our Facebook page!Facebook

Certain hormones send hunger signals to your brain that let you know when it's time to eat. Other hormones send signals that tell your brain you are full and it's time to stop. And just like the rest of your body, those hormones don't work as well when you don't get enough sleep.

Hormones are "chemical messengers" that help make things happen in your body by sending signals to and from your brain. Ghrelin and leptin are known as the "hunger hormones" because they help regulate your appetite.  Your stomach produces more ghrelin when you start getting hungry and need to consume calories. Your fat cells produce leptin once you have eaten and need to burn calories. At the same time, low levels of leptin send a signal that there is a shortage of calories in your body.

While looking at nighttime levels of these two hormones, researchers at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior discovered that sleep loss at night may lead to increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin during the day. The unfortunate outcome of this hormonal dance, the researchers speculated, is an overstimulated appetite that often results in weight gain.

A study published in a 2010 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine confirmed that dieters who got less sleep produced higher levels of ghrelin over time, felt hungrier and lost more than 50 percent less fat, even when they lost the same amount of weight as well rested dieters. The participants in this study ranged in age from 35 to 49 and were all overweight or obese, but otherwise healthy. When the dieters slept an average of 7 hours and 25 minutes each night, they lost equal amounts of fat and lean tissue. When sleep was restricted to just a little more than five hours, their bodies ultimately burned much less body fat and much more muscle protein to produce energy, even when calorie intake was the same.

The goal of healthy weight loss is to lose excess body fat and preserve as much lean muscle mass as possible. That is why these studies are so important. Experts now understand more about the link between sleep and energy balance, and how insomnia can defeat the best intentions of anyone who is trying to lose weight. The take-away message? If you are going to try to lose weight, consider improving your sleeping habits, if necessary, along with your eating and exercise habits.

See what people are saying about this article on our Facebook page!Facebook


Motivala, SJ et al.; "Nocturnal Levels of Ghrelin and Leptin and Sleep in Chronic Insomnia." Psychoneuroendocrinology May 2009:34(4)540-545. Web. 23 Feb 2011