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How the lack of sleep influences your weight

01st May 2015

Feeling sleepy and energy-deprived can make you more prone to overeating, and it won’t take long for results to become visible, especially if you regularly skip sleep hours and rely on extra food for boosting your energy levels during the day.

From this perspective, there’s definitely a link between the lack of sleep and the accumulation of extra pounds, but the relationship is not a cause-effect one. In this particular situation, the extra weight is the result of overeating, and not of skipping rest hours. So the question is: would you still gain weight if you neglected your sleep schedule but watched your diet and stayed within your recommended daily calorie intake?

Is is possible to gain weight by simply missing out on sleep?

If you’re getting 8 hours of sleep per night and then switch to 5 hours per night, you will soon start to notice that your appetite changes as well. This happens even if you change noting in your diet, and is the result of an increased production of ghrelin, a hormone that tells your body when to eat.

The less you sleep, the more ghrelin is produced inside the body, therefore the hungrier you feel during the day, even if you have an otherwise healthy and balanced diet.

On the other hand, if you usually sleep only 5-6 hours per night and you increase your rest period to 7-8 hours, you may start dropping pounds without increasing your gym effort and without having to change your diet – assuming you’re eating healthy most of the times.

Responsible for this change will be another hormone that influences the appetite, and is called leptin. Leptin tells your body when you’ve had enough food and prevents you from overeating. People who are sleep deprived have less leptin, so they’re more likely to overeat even after a fulfilling meal.

Then, the lack of sleep slows down the metabolism and reduces the amount of calories burned during the day. In the long run, this can favor the accumulation of extra pounds, especially in people who don’t work out and have sedentary jobs.

Moreover, the lack of sleep can alter the body’s response to insulin and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is also connected with weight gain and obesity. Studies have shown that people who sleep only 4 hours per night have an abnormal glucose metabolism and are more prone to type 2 diabetes.

Not getting enough rest reduces the organism’s ability to response to insulin, which is responsible for carrying the sugar from the bloodstream to cells, for energy production. But insulin has one more effect on the organism, that is also linked with changes in weight: this hormone promotes the release of leptin, so if you are less insulin-sensitive, you make less leptin, therefore your body doesn’t receive the proper signals when the stomach is full. This makes you eat more and gain weight.

To sum it up, skipping sleep hours can favor weight gain, not only by making you feel energy deprived during the day, but also by influencing the production of hormones that tell your body when you’re satisfied or when you’re hungry and need more food. So if you’ve recently changed your sleep schedule and you’ve started gaining weight, it’s time to do your body a favor and increase the rest interval to 6-7 hours per night.

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