Nov 27, 2023
Sleep Deprivation & Weight Gain – How it works?
ood sleep hygiene and regular physical activity are key elements for the maintenance of optimal health and functioning throughout life. In contrast, excess body fat, especially when stored in the abdominal area, can be detrimental to health by increasing the risk for chronic diseases. It is well known that obesity prevalence rates have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. Increased caloric intake and lower levels of physical activity are well-studied contributors to the “obesity epidemic,” among many other factors.
It’s true, being short on sleep makes you gain weight. While you are sleeping your body has already prepared the ways to gain weight. You must be tempted to binge on junk food, skip your exercise, over eat etc. Getting enough sleep is directly associated with a healthy lifestyle.
In a world that values productivity, time is a precious commodity. It is therefore not unusual for people to cut into their sleep time to finish everything they believe has to be done in a day, or to wind down before heading to bed. In fact, it is becoming more common for people to view less sleep as beneficial and associated with being “hardworking.”
Unfortunately, many people ignore the negative impact of this type of behavior on their health. Fortunately, recent research into the effects of sleep is helping people become aware of the benefits of good sleep hygiene for overall health.
There is also the possibility of bidirectional effects, such as insufficient sleep causing weight gain and obesity causing insufficient sleep, hence creating a setting for a vicious circle.
It is increasingly recognized that we sleep less now compared to many decades ago. Multiple factors are responsible for this general decline in sleep duration, including artificial light, caffeine use, late-night screen time, irregular work shifts, medical disorders, and social jet lag (i.e., the modern tendency of living a lifestyle in dissonance with the inherent biological clock). The modern way of living, with its 24/7 lifestyle, thus appears to be an important driver of this “sleep deprivation epidemic.
Hormonal changes can lead to poor health outcomes if poor sleeping habits are maintained on a regular basis. Epidemiological evidence also shows that short sleep duration (typically less than six to seven hours per night in adults) is associated with a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hypertension and premature death.
But how can we gain weight by not sleeping enough?
It is not that if you get a good sleep you will be slim or healthy, but when you don’t get sleep, that can ruin your body and your way of living and this is dangerous cycle which goes on and on until it is stopped. It disturbs your metabolism which is the key factor why your weight increases because of lack of sleep. The mechanism behind eating when your sleep deprived is because of two hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, the level of this hormone is high when we are sleep deprived. Leptin is the hormone which tells us when to stop eating, to have a balance of both of these hormones its necessary to sleep at least for 7 hours a day.
Free living conditions – Hormonal Explanation
Less time spent sleeping translates into more time and opportunities for eating, particularly with sedentary activities like watching television and sitting at the computer. In an environment where energy-dense foods taste good and are readily available, caloric intake may be directly proportional to the time spent awake. Habitual short sleepers report eating more often (greater than three meals per day, with more frequent snacking or nibbling) than long sleepers.Sleep loss leads to a general feeling of fatigue, which can make us feel less inclined to want to do physical activity.
Sleep and Metabolism in relation
Sleep is like a portion of healthy food for the brain. People need to sleep at least for 7 hours and when you feel you are not getting enough of those 7 hours of sleep, the body reacts in a way which can be noticeable and can damage your brain slowly. Sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is released at times of stress. Not having enough sleep and an increase in stress levels are few early signs of weight gain. The body fails to process production of insulin which is required for carbohydrates like sugar to digest which we need for energy. So when your body in unable to process insulin, the fat in bloodstream remains undigested and keeps on getting stored up and this is how fat gain occurs.
1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on the weekends!).
2. Avoid caffeine consumption (e.g., coffee, soft drinks, chocolate) starting in the late afternoon.
3. Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening.
4. Avoid smoking cigarettes.
5. Expose yourself to bright light in the morning—sunlight helps the biological clock to reset itself each day.
6. Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep—it should be dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.
7. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow.
8. Exercise regularly during the day or at least three hours before going to bed.
9. Develop a relaxing routine before bedtime—ideas include bathing, music, and reading.
10. Don’t go to bed feeling hungry, but also don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed.
11. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping only—keep cell phones, computers, televisions, and video games out of your bedroom.
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4. National Sleep Foundation. How much sleep do we really need? sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need. Accessed September 2014.
5. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/fitness/pdfs/2014-december_elevate_health.pdfLack of sleep can lead to weight gain A quarterly research digest of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports &NutritionSeries 15, Number 5 December 2014.
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