Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain: Understanding the Connection

Did you know that a sleep-deprived person consumes on average 300 more calories per day? And that this can translate into two pounds gained per week? The good news about lack of sleep and weight gain is that even a half hour increase can help you rev up your metabolism and shrink your waistline.

On average, doctors suggest you get a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep per night. If you’re coming up short, then you’re triggering a vicious cycle that leads to extra pounds.

Read on to learn more about sleep deprivation and weight gain.

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Weight Gain?

Sleep deprivation used to be limited to college kids pulling all-night cramming sessions before tests. But now it’s become a badge of honor among many American workers. It’s emblematic of hard work and sacrifice, but do you actually know how much you’re sacrificing?

Sleep deprivation doesn’t just show up in dark circles and a cranky mood. The effects of lack of sleep run much deeper and are far more destructive.

Sleep deprivation impairs your memory and decision-making ability. It impairs your reaction time. It even affects your body’s repair and healing processes.

And it doesn’t take much in the way of sleep loss to trigger these negative symptoms. Loss of thirty minutes a night of quality sleep can trigger an unhealthy response in your body. This response is directly correlated to hormones that regulate your hunger and satiety levels.

Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain

Sleep loss causes a vicious cycle in your body that makes you more apt to gain weight. But how does this work? Lack of sleep causes your body to dump cortisol into your bloodstream, which makes your appetite monstrous.

Of course, when your appetite goes into overdrive, willpower goes out the window. So, you end up grabbing food that’s convenient and comforting. This translates into poor food choices and a recipe for disaster.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your body craves the calming effects of serotonin. What’s the easiest way for your body to produce serotonin in a jiffy? By reaching for high-fat, high-carb foods.

Sound familiar? If this is what your weight gain cycle looks like, it’s time to change when and how much you’re sleeping. What’s more, the sleep deprivation issues don’t stop there…

Survival Mode

When you lack sleep, your body interprets this as a sign you’re in imminent danger. This survival mechanism worked like a charm in days gone by helping our ancestors to cope and survive under stressful, dangerous conditions. But now, these ancient mechanisms for survival just end up making us flabby.

In survival mode, your metabolism slows down so that your body can maintain its resources. What’s more, you crave extra fuel in preparation for potential fight or flight scenarios. So, our body’s amazing attempts to save us compound what’s already a vicious cycle.

While researchers suggest we need about 7.5 hours of sleep per night, this number can be different for everyone and is based on your hormone levels at night. Two hormones are key to sleep deprivation and weight gain: leptin and ghrelin.

Appetite Hormones

Understanding weight gain and obesity requires looking at the body’s complex endocrine system. The endocrine system contains your body’s glands and is involved in producing hormones. These hormones regulate all aspects of your body’s functions from sleep to mood to metabolism.

According to the Obesity Reviews, “As a growing number of people suffer from obesity, understanding the mechanisms by which various hormones and neurotransmitters have influence on energy balance has been a subject of intensive research.”

Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin regulates appetite and lets you know when you’re full. But guess what? When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your leptin levels drop meaning you lack the hormones to feel full.

Adding more fuel to the fire, your ghrelin levels climb. What does ghrelin do? Ghrelin communicates with your body to let you know when it’s time to eat.

When your body lacks sleep–even thirty-minutes worth–it triggers a complex hormonal response. This response stokes your appetite for quick-fix comfort foods while decreasing your ability to feel full. So, like the cursed sailors in The Pirates of the Caribbean, you’re driven mad by hunger and unable to satisfy it.

Improve Your “Sleep Hygiene”

The great thing about sleeping and weight gain is that you can start turning it around tonight. That said, it’s not always as simple as getting more sleep. Some people have difficulty dozing off or lack overall sleep quality because of poor “sleep hygiene.”

“Sleep hygiene” refers to habits that may be negatively impacting your ability to fall asleep and do so deeply and restfully. What are some common factors that get in the way of a good night’s sleep? Misuse of caffeine, for starters.

Afternoon caffeine makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night. It also keeps your body from delving into the deep, REM sleep that it needs to regulate your endocrine system. So, cut out all coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks after 2 pm.

What you eat and when can also impact your sleep. Avoid alcohol and heavy meals that cause heartburn or make you toss and turn. Instead, opt for light, healthy fare at a time that allows you to do some digesting before you hit the hay.

Sleep & Electronics

But caffeine and food aren’t the only things you need to watch out for.

Electronics can do a serious number on your beauty rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a. your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.”

Put another way, the glare from screens is messing up your sleep. And you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, ninety percent of Americans use electronics in the hour before bed.

It’s as simple as watching TV to “wind down” before bed. But the effects are catastrophic for your body’s internal clock. The artificial blue light increases your alertness and delays the release of melatonin right at the time when you need it most.

Between the blue light of electronics, caffeine, and bad food choices, you feel downright jittery right before bed. Do you see how a bad situation gets worse?

Rethink Your Bedtime Routine

How do you get a handle on the electronics that are destroying your sleep? Start by setting a curfew on screen time. This can be two hours before bed, one hour, or even a solid thirty minutes. You’ll notice a difference.

But what if you can’t imagine going to bed without watching your favorite TV show or movie? Try reading a printed book instead. Use a simple lamplight to avoid killing drowsiness.

Or, opt for an e-ink e-reader such as the Kindle Paperwhite. Unlike a Kindle Fire or your smartphone, the Paperwhite doesn’t produce blue light. So, you can read a chapter of your favorite book without devastating your sleep pattern.

While it may feel challenging to make these changes at first, keep in mind all that you stand to gain with a little extra time in bed. You’ll lose weight, clear your mind, and react more quickly. What’s more, your mood will improve, and people may even like you more!

Stop Cheating Your Body!

Our culture has become so fast-paced and goal-oriented that we actually brag about lack of sleep. We see it as some kind of meritorious badge when the truth is, it’s killing us! Even a thirty-minute deficit of sleep messes up your hormones for the whole day.

But lack of sleep also comes with long-term implications, especially if the sleep-deprivation trend continues over time. So, do yourself a favor and readjust how you look at sleep. If you want to lose weight and rev up your metabolism, make sleep a top priority.

It’ll help you regulate your body’s endocrine system and ramp up your natural fat burning processes. It’ll tame the ghrelin and cortisol spikes in your system while providing it with more leptin. That means more willpower and effortless weight loss.

But what happens if you’re getting enough sleep but still feel exhausted when you wake up? That could indicate an issue with the quality of your sleep. Contact your doctor right away so that they can refer you to a specialist for a sleep apnea test.

More About Sleep

Interested in learning more about lack of sleep and weight gain? Looking for other ways to adjust your routine to ensure you’re getting enough beauty rest? We’ve got the info you need to get a good night’s sleep.

Do yourself a huge favor and check out some of our other blog posts. From sleep and anxiety to noise-canceling headphones, we’re the experts on getting a good night’s rest so that you can reverse sleep weight gain.

When it comes to shut-eye, we’ve got you covered. At Sleepify, helping people sleep like babies is our passion. Contact us today to learn more about the factors that could be affecting your rest and rejuvenation.

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