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How does lack of sleep affect my weight?

While it may seem intuitive that sleeping too much can lead to weight gain because it means more time spent being sedentary, emerging studies suggest that getting inadequate rest may also cause your waistline to expand. A study was conducted to examine the effects of sleep on weight by studying more than 68,000 women between the ages of 39 and 65 over a 12-year period. The scientists reported that women who slept five hours or less each night tended to weigh about six pounds more than subjects who got at least seven hours of rest nightly. Moreover, participants who slept less also gained weight more rapidly than their well-rested counterparts.

The two digestive hormones that hold the remote control to your feelings of hunger and appetite are ghrelin and leptin. As with many hormones, these two are paired but have opposing functions. One says Go and the other says Stop. Ghrelin (your go hormone) gets secreted by the stomach when it's empty and increases your appetite. It sends a message to your brain that you need to eat. When your stomach is full, fat cells usher out the other hormone, leptin, so your brain gets the message that you are full and need to stop eating.

A bad night's sleep, or just not enough sleep, creates an imbalance of both ghrelin and leptin. Studies now prove that when people are allowed just four hours of sleep a night for two nights, they experience a 20 percent drop in leptin and an increase in ghrelin. They also have a marked increase (about 24 percent) in hunger and appetite. And what do they gravitate toward? Calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate foods like sweets, salty snacks, and starchy foods. Sleep loss essentially disconnects your brain from your stomach, leading to mindless eating. It deceives your body into believing it’s hungry when it’s not, and it also tricks you into craving foods that can sabotage a healthy diet.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.