When You Snooze You Loose

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By Mia Inqui

There’s a growing body of evidence that ties short sleep duration (getting less than 7–8 hours of shut-eye) with higher BMI’s in both adults and children proving that sleep habits effect weight. In 2015, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College presented evidence that cutting sleep by as little as 30 minutes per day can lead to weight gain. The researchers studied 522 participants with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes for 12 months, asking them to track sleep seven days a week. After a year, the researchers found that, for every 30 minutes of sleep debt accrued at baseline, the risk of obesity and insulin resistance significantly increased, by 17% and 39%, respectively. Another study found that when participants weren’t getting enough sleep it affected their food choices and meal patterns. When participants skimped on sleep, they not only ate more food, but they also chose food that was lower in nutrients and higher in fat and carbohydrates. They also ate smaller breakfasts and had a greater tendency to snack after dinner. In another study of just 30 participants published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 found that sleep-deprived participants ate an average of 300 more calories per day, mostly in the form of saturated fats. But why? There’s a hormonal imbalance associated with sleep deprivation. Inadequate sleep impacts ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that regulate hunger and fullness. Ghrelin signals to your brain that it’s time to eat. The less you sleep, the more of this hormone your body tends to make. Leptin, on the other hand, signals to your brain that you’re full. Sleep deprivation actually causes production of leptin to drop, desensitizing your feeling of fullness. Tie the two together, and you’ve got one disastrous duo for weight control. But that’s not all: There’s a third hormone, cortisol, that may be involved as well. Cortisol is a stress hormone that signals the body to conserve energy (translation: store fat), and it spikes when we don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is undervalued. Getting enough quality sleep is holistically tied to your health and your weight-loss goals. Getting more sleep is not the solution to our current obesity epidemic here in the USA; however, knowing that getting enough sleep can possibly help individuals better manage their weight is a very helpful tool.