Does lack of sleep cause weight gain?
March 14, 2022
If you find yourself struggling in your efforts to lose weight despite a healthy diet, portion control, and regular exercise, you might want to examine your sleeping habits.
Research shows a link between sleep and weight loss (or gain) because sleep affects the hormones that influence our eating behaviors. Studies have found that those who slept less were often less satisfied with meals and reaching for food more often than those who slept for longer periods. It’s all due to cortisol – a stress hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and can trigger the rise of other appetite-related hormones if we don’t get enough rest.
So, what exactly is happening in the body and why does lack of sleep cause weight gain? Let’s dive into all things sleep and weight gain.
The stress hormone cortisol is what helps our bodies naturally wake up in the morning and fall asleep at night. Right before waking, cortisol is at its peak and continues to fall slowly throughout the day until it reaches its lowest at night (signaling to the body that it’s time to sleep). When we don’t get enough sleep, cortisol will not fall over the course of the day as it should. And, when our cortisol levels are higher for longer, it signals to the body that it should store fat and use muscle for energy.
So, what’s the right amount of time for optimal sleep? And, does not sleeping make you gain weight? In short, seven to eight hours a night can help keep cortisol levels from staying too high – one of the more obvious reasons for weight gain and muscle loss. But, it might also have to do with your metabolism. More specifically, a lack of sleep can alter the hormones that regulate your metabolism, known as leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is an appetite-decreasing hormone. It sends signals to the brain that your body has enough stored energy (in the form of fat) to maintain normal function.
It’s responsible for giving you that “full” feeling when eating and sends that signal to your brain.
Ghrelin is an appetite-increasing hormone. It signals the brain when you’re hungry. When you have high levels of ghrelin, research suggests that your desire for high-calorie foods increases.
It may also influence your eating behavior by increasing stimulation of the brain’s reward system—meaning eating will make you happy.
When they are working together normally, these two hormones let your body know when you’re hungry or when you’re full. But when your body is short on sleep, their levels start to change – which may be one of the reasons for weight gain.
The leptin levels drop, which makes you feel less satisfied after eating. And, the ghrelin levels spike, stimulating your appetite and increasing your drive for high-calorie foods. That is just one of the ways that lack of sleep and weight gain relate.
Research also showed that when people did lose weight during sleep deprivation, less of it was from fat than when they were getting adequate sleep (which is not ideal). That’s why rest is so important for health. When you get enough sleep, weight loss is more likely to be a result of actually losing fat, not muscle.
We know what you’re thinking – how much sleep do I need? Some people need more than others, but, generally, seven to eight hours of sleep each night is ideal to promote optimal levels of leptin and ghrelin.
If you’re regularly getting only 5.5 hours of sleep or less, your ghrelin levels will be on the rise, not to mention several other adverse effects, including irritability, forgetfulness, and clumsiness.
If you’re worried about sleep and weight gain, it’s time to rethink your nighttime habits. Read 8 Tips for Better Sleep (and Immune Support) for advice on how to improve the quality of your sleep, including how to fall asleep by establishing a routine, creating a “sleep sanctuary”, and reducing fluid intake before bed.
You can also consider a supplement or other products to help you relax to fall asleep†, like n* by Nutrilite™ Sweet Dreams – Sleep Gummies with melatonin and passionflower or Nutrilite™ Sleep Health with valerian, hops, and lemon balm.
Recovery from day-to-day activities and occasional illness is critical to your health, which is why we continue to emphasize the importance of sleep. Weight loss is just one of the many benefits that may occur when you give your body the rest it deserves. Learn more about how to support your body at Amway.com.
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