Feeling Hungry? How did you Sleep?

Articles
June 01, 2010

Feeling Hungry? How did you Sleep?

If you’re tired of hearing about the numerous reasons for the increased levels of overweight and obesity in our country… it’s ironic – the fact that you’re tired may be yet another reason for the weight problem.

If you’re tired of hearing about the numerous reasons for the increased levels of overweight and obesity in our country… it’s ironic – the fact that you’re tired may be yet another reason for the weight problem.

A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) examined the link between a lack of sleep and overeating.  Numerous studies have linked shorter sleep duration to a higher body mass index (BMI); but to date, no experimental studies have actually looked into what happens to eating patterns of a normal weight person when he or she sleeps less.  Researchers looked at sleep, eating, and energy expenditure (“calories burned”) in 12 healthy, normal weight young men across two, two-day sessions.  After the night of restricted sleep, researchers observed that the men took in an average of 22 percent more calories (a whopping 560 cal.), than when they were allowed to sleep for eight hours.

Other studies have suggested that when people suffer from lack of sleep it can raise hormone levels in a way that actually makes them feel hungrier.  Thus, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re probably getting more than enough food.  Lack of sleep reportedly results in a reduction in leptin, a hormone that tells you that you aren’t hungry anymore, and an increase in ghrelin, which tells you that you are. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but also comments that there is ‘no magic number’ and so the amount of hours needed per night varies person to person.

We certainly need to do our best to get an adequate amount of sleep, as this is crucial for proper functioning of the body and improved quality of life.  The AJCN’s authors comment, “It is time to understand that sleep is not just losing time, besides the recovery processes that occur, there are many other functions (memory, repair, etc.) which are going on.”  

We have all heard it before, and it's time we stop ignoring how we feel and start listening to our bodies. Studies linking our health, weight, and sleep simply reinforce what most of us learned from our parents and grandparents, and what we know to be true – get a good night’s sleep, eat a balanced diet with not too many sweets, and get plenty of exercise, and the odds are pretty good that you’ll have a long and healthy life. So it’s time to prioritize and move sleep up on the list of importance.