We all know that healthy sleep is an important ingredient in the recipe for good health. But did you know there is scientific evidence that links sleep deprivation and the tendency to overeat? A number of recent studies confirm that those chronically short on sleep also have a higher propensity for obesity.
More Appetite-Stimulating Hormone Released
A study performed at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia discovered that the amount of sleep we get affects the operation of the hormones responsible for feelings of hunger and satiety. When properly rested, the body is able to efficiently release ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone, and leptin, the appetite-suppressing hormone. But when we are chronically sleep deprived, the body releases more ghrelin and less leptin, causing the sleepy to take in more calories.
Decision-Making Ability Weakened
Being sleepy seems to weaken our resolve to eat healthy foods, as well. Another study measured brain activity of a group of participants when they were well rested and then again after a night of poor sleep. The group was then shown pictures of foods and asked to rate what they would most like to eat. When sleepy, the high calorie foods including desserts, chips and chocolate, stimulated intense activity in the area of the brain that regulate emotions and desires. The frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, had significantly lower activity when the participants were sleep deprived.
Researchers suspect that adenosine, a byproduct of cellular metabolism, is the substance responsible for these changes in brain function. Adenosine builds up in the body, causes drowsiness and reduces brain function, then dissipates during sleep. During periods of sleep deprivation, high levels of adenosine may weaken the transmission of signals in the brain, affecting our ability to make decisions.
Insufficient sleep has also been linked to greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and lowered sensitivity to insulin. Both prolonged periods of elevated cortisol and insulin resistance are linked to increased risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Getting sufficient sleep is essential to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. If you are overweight and have not been successful with medically supervised weight loss programs, you may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery.