That Freshman Fifteen, may not all be from the cafeteria food. It may be because you haven’t been hitting the snooze button enough. Sleep, or lack of it, not only affects your mind, it can seriously affect your waistline. Here’s how.
When you are sleeping, many systems in your body are not. They are busy repairing, renewing, and restoring the damage done to the body throughout the day. Without sleep, this repair work cannot be done as efficiently and you may suffer some adverse effects the next day or longer if your sleep deprivation continues. One of the most important things your body restores at night is hormone levels.
Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and accelerate chemical reactions that are necessary for energy, development, and growth. They also carry messages from glands to target cells throughout the body, thus helping it maintain homeostasis, or balance. Your body wants to be and continually strives to be in balance!
Two interesting hormones which are produced by fat cells are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin sends signals to the brain that affect appetite. When leptin levels are low, the brain responds as if your fat stores have been depleted and slows metabolism. (See the article Why Diets Don’t Work). You don’t want low leptin levels! Since leptin is used throughout the day, its levels need to be restored while you sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t get enough leptin. If you don’t have enough leptin, you may not get the message that you are full, so you over-eat.
The other hormone, ghrelin stimulates the appetite. Levels of this hormone typically rise before meals and fall afterward. Dieters tend to have high levels of ghrelin, as do people who are sleep deprived. (See the article Why Diets Don’t Work). High levels of ghrelin may cause you to feel hungrier than you actually are.
Another hormone called serotonin is usually credited as a natural sleep aid, but it also helps with satiety, or feeling full and satisfied after a eating a meal. Satiety (or the “I am full feeling”) usually takes about 20 minutes. If serotonin levels are low, you may feel hungry even when your stomach is full. Serotonin also helps regulate moods, temper, anxiety, and relieves depression. If serotonin is low, you may feel anxious or depressed and this can also trigger emotional eating which can also lead to weight gain.
I know that when I stay up late and do not get enough sleep, I tend to snack more the next day. I also know that when I am up late at night I tend to munch a lot. Unfortunately, it’s not a veggie platter I usually go for, its fatty, salty, sugary, high calorie, and low nutrient foods. Whenever I lack sleep, I tend to eat more because my hormone levels are out of whack.
Here is another example to sum this up. Scientists recently conducted a sleep deprivation study on people who were trying to lose weight. They compared people who got 8 hours of sleep a night with those that only got 5.5 hours a night. They found that even though both groups lost weight, those that got less sleep lost less fat (and thus more lean muscles mass). We want to lose fat, not lean muscle mass!
These scientists theorized that sleep deprivation affects hormone secretions, namely increasing the production of ghrelin, which causes an increase of appetite, and decreasing the production of leptin, which slows the sense of satiety brought about by eating. This is the opposite of what most of us want to happen!
Sleep deprivation may also slow down metabolism. In another study, scientists found that women who got less sleep gained more weight even though they ate FEWER calories.
In other words, make it a habit to go to bed earlier and get enough good quality sleep. Your body will thank you and so will your waistline!
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