The connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain is more complex than simply being too tired to exercise; physiological changes occur in your brain and in your body that affect your appetite and even how you process your food. Research studies have begun to shed light on the multifaceted relationship between sleep and weight gain. In a country where obesity rates are high, it’s important to not underestimate how healthy sleep habits can play an important role in an effective weight management program. Here are a few ways that sleep deprivation and weight gain are linked:
Increased Hunger and Decreased Appetite Control
The Huffington Post cited a review conducted by Pennsylvania State University that surveyed 18 studies covering sleep deprivation and weight gain between 1996 and 2011. The reviewers found that increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) consistently accompanied sleep deprivation—defined as less than six hours of sleep each evening, though not zero hours. Sleep deprivation also decreased levels of leptin, a hormone which helps to control your appetite. Weight loss can also affect your ghrelin and leptin levels the same way, so if you’re undertaking a weight loss regimen while sleep-deprived, you might find weight loss to be difficult to achieve and maintain.
Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain May Put You at Risk for Diabetes
A small 2016 study cited by Scientific American found that sleep deprivation—four nights of four and a half hours of sleep—caused participants’ fat cells to become 30 percent less receptive to insulin signals. This dulled receptivity occurs in people with type 2 diabetes as well, suggesting that sleep deprivation may lead to diabetes and obesity.
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