Sleep and Weight Loss, What is the Connection?

I’ve always wondered about the connection between and sleep and weight loss, specifically if sleep (or a lack of it) can influence any weight loss or exercise program I’m on. With exercise its simple, not enough sleep and you affect both muscle growth and energy levels to exercise again the next day. But for out and out weight loss, whats the effect?

After looking around online, i found a research paper that reports that women who sleep 5 hours or less per night generally weigh more than women who sleep 7 hours per night. These findings, presented at the 2006 American Thoracic Society International Conference, showed that women who slept 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study, compared to those who slept 7 hours a night. The study was of 70,000 women so it has taken into account pretty much every demographic we can think of.

I couldn’t find a study specifically targeting men and although the above report was exclusively of women, the effects on us are not likely to be far behind. The question is, on a scientific basis, why does a lack of sleep cause adverse effects to weight loss?

Sleep deprivation influences two hormones that play a major role in the functioning of our appetite. The hormone Ghrelin is a hormone that is responsible for increasing our appetite and Leptin is a hormone that lets the brain know when the body is full, therefore decreasing appetite.

When you deprive yourself of sleep there is a decrease in leptin (the full hormone) and an increase ghrelin (the appetite hormone). This leads to an increase in appetite overall. This can result in increased hunger during the day and bigger meals. There is also evidence based on older studies that showed that it might affect your metabolism as well, with people who get less sleep eating less but still putting on more weight than those who got enough sleep.

So how much sleep do we actually need? Apparently Adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, there is no specific number of hours that is considered enough sleep, it depends on a lot of factors that are unique to each individual person.

In the end, keeping food intake and hunger in check to lose weight is difficult enough to begin with. When hormones are involved, due to lack of rest, your weight loss success might be reduced because of it. What’s your experience when it comes to sleep and weight loss?

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