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How Does Poor Sleep Cause Weight Gain?

Who are the culprits of weight gain at bedtime?  Well, Leptin and Gherlin are, dear friends.  Sounding a little like horror movie characters, they are the hormones implicated in putting on the poundage.  Lose zzzs and gain LBs.....Doesn't sound fair, but Dr. Tracey Marks helps you get ahead of their evil ways.

We know that chronic sleep loss can cause of number of health problems.  These problems range from increased risk of cardiovascular disease to diabetes.  These negative health effects are associated with persistent sleep loss such as sleeping less than six hours a night for four or more nights a week and having this pattern last at least one month.


However, research has also shown that sleep loss has an even quicker impact on your appetite and weight.  One study showed that after one night of sleep loss people experienced changes in their appetite that worked against them when it came to maintaining a normal weight.  Here’s how it works.


In short, sleep loss affects your appetite hormones.  Gherlin is the hunger hormone and leptin is the satiety (or anti-hunger) hormone.  One night of sleep deprivation increases gherlin making you hungrier and decreases leptin, which makes it harder for you to feel satisfied.  So the connection between sleep loss and weight gain is that sleep deprivation resets your appetite to make you want to eat more.  Then when you eat, you won't feel as full.  Some studies have also shown that we tend to crave more carbohydrate-rich food, which if you can’t burn off turns to fat.  More fat is exactly what the body wants because leptin is predominately made in the fat cells and if the level is too low, it tells the body "we don't have enough fat."  An additional help in the fat storage area is that sleep deprivation impairs glucose metabolism and increases insulin resistance (through increased cortisol production) so those extra carbs you ingest don't get processed effectively and get stored as fat.


Summertime can bring on long days and late nights and it can take much discipline to stick to a regular sleep schedule.  If you want to keep mean and lean this summer, pay attention to how much you sleep at night and know that you may be prone to the munchies the next day as a result of not getting enough sleep.  Knowing how sleep loss affects your appetite can help you take control of your eating so as not give in to your body’s natural drive to store up the fat.