Does Less Sleep Mean More Weight?

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It’s long been hypothesized that when we get less sleep, we’re more inclined to add weight. Can this be true? Several research studies provide an in-depth look at possible connections.

Recent research from the University of Chicago found that young, healthy volunteers who had consumed full meals before sleep experienced increased cravings for snacks the following day, especially in the afternoon. Sleep-deprived subjects consumed nearly twice as much fat and 300 calories more per day than they did after sleeping a full eight hours.

What causes cravings and weight gain?

Sleep is closely tied to hormone regulation. For example, the lack of sleep can lead to increases in ghrelin, a hormone that signals our body to eat. Subjects in the University of Wisconsin’s Sleep Cohort studies who slept fewer than five hours had 14.9 higher ghrelin levels than those sleeping eight hours. Sleep deprivation also decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that balances out ghrelin by inhibiting hunger and fat accumulation.

What can we do?

A first step is getting enough sleep; the amounts vary depending your age and personal needs; The National Sleep Foundation has created this helpful chart with recommended amounts of sleep for each age range. Next is bedtime rituals, including eliminating the use of electronic devices prior to sleep, establishing consistent rituals to signal your body it’s time for sleep, and avoiding eating and drinking—especially alcoholic drinks—for at least two hours prior to going to bed. We’ll share additional insights in our upcoming blogs.

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