Sleep.  Not many of us get enough.  Whether we work long hours, are taking care of family obligations or lay awake at night having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, we could all use some more.  But did you know that there is a correlation between your weight and your sleep patterns?

Think about the last time you were running on next to no sleep. What did you eat that day?  Did you care about what you were putting into your body?  Were you more hungry than usual?

Think about the new mom that is having trouble losing her baby weight.  Is she lazy?  More than likely, no.  She is in a losing battle.  She is taking care of her newborn, while trying to recover herself on little or no sleep.  Her body is unable to function normally because of the lack of sleep that she is getting.

When our bodies do not get enough sleep, the hormones that keep our appetites in check start working differently.  Leptin, which functions as an appetite suppressant is lowered and Ghrelin, which stimulates appetite is boosted.  This in turn can cause an increase in caloric intake far above what is needed, especially a craving for foods with high amounts of carbohydrates.  This would in turn support the findings by Emmanuel Mignot and his colleagues that people with short durations of sleep have higher Body Mass Indexes (BMI)*, which is directly related to one’s risk of disease.  A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that the average time Americans were sleeping had decreased from 8.0- 8.9 hours a night in the 1960’s to 6.9-7.0 hours in 2000.  Pair those statistics with the fact that obesity has been on the rise and a startling pattern can be made between lack of sleep, overeating and weight gain.

A study in the journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that people with sleep disorders tend to eat a diet that is higher in cholesterol, protein and total fat, including saturated fat.

Another interesting find is that according to the Archives of Internal Medicine, people that are getting five or fewer hours of sleep a night are more likely to be diabetic.

The moral of the story: sleep is a precious commodity and everyone needs to make time for it.  Whether it is working a little less, cutting back on television or not staying out as late, sleep needs to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind who is trying to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Leading a healthy lifestyle encompasses more than just eating right and getting exercise.  It is about one’s total health, which includes allowing the body the proper amount of sleep that it needs to recover and function properly. 

To find your BMI:

Underweight = <18.5

Normal weight = 18.5-24.9

Overweight = 25-29.9

Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater


Light’s Out! It’s time for Bed, Us News and World Report

Sleep duration Affects Appetite-Regulating Hormones, Public library of Science

The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism, Medscape Neurology and Neurosurgery Insomnia and sleep Health Expert column



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