If someone said you could lose weight by sleeping more, you might think that person was losing touch with reality. We hear it from fitness experts that moving more and eating healthy food in controlled portions is the way to lose weight. So given that, how does sleep factor into the situation other than you feel good when lying on a mattress that’s cushioned with the best mattress topper?
Well, researchers are discovering that sleep has a big influence on weight loss…or gain.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults log in seven to nine hours of sleep every night. When you fall short of that goal, certain chemical reactions take place, specifically between the hormones ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin: A hormone produced in the gastrointestinal tract that promotes appetite.
Leptin: A hormone produced in fat cells that signals the sensation of being full.
For some reason, a shortage of sleep triggers ghrelin production to kick into high gear and leptin production to fall off. Not only do you feel tired, grouchy and inattentive due to not enough rest, but you could be hungrier all day long. Because the leptin is low, your body isn’t receiving the signal that you’re full. Rather, the excess of ghrelin in your system keeps sending the message that you’re hungry. The imbalance may end up in you consuming more calories than usual.
Compounding the problem is that people all too often reach for sugary, fatty or high-carbohydrate foods to get an energy boost. But these foods cannot sustain high energy levels for long periods. As fast as you feel the boost, you feel the drop as blood sugar levels quickly come back down.
If you only occasionally miss out on valuable hours of sleep, then chances are a disturbance in the ghrelin-leptin relationship won’t affect your weight too much. If it becomes an ongoing habit, however, then you are more likely to see a weight gain.
Before you reset your alarm clock to get the necessary hours of sleep, you should know that scientists say the ghrelin-leptin relationship may not be so clear-cut. Studies of individuals with sleep apnea, which is commonly associated with obesity, have recorded higher levels of leptin. Although the total hours in bed met the recommended seven to nine, these patients experienced multiple interruptions in their sleep because they stopped breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time, which led to a low total sleep time. Instead of having low leptin levels as researchers expected, the subjects’ readings were unusually high.
The surprising results led researchers to hypothesize that chronic conditions, such as sleep apnea, might lead some people to develop a hormonal tolerance toward sleep disturbances.
And of course, you can’t forget the effect being tired has on motivation. When you don’t have your normal energy reserves, it’s too easy to talk yourself out of exercising.
On the other hand, when you arise feeling refreshed, the thought of going for a run sounds like a good idea.