A good night’s rest is important. We know it and we hear it all the time. Quite frankly, it is very logical – if we don’t get a good night’s rest the next day we are tired, crabby, and experience a lack of energy. For these key reasons, sleep is most definitely important. But, there is one other important fact that individuals tend to forget about when hitting the pillow later than intended – proper regulation of hormones and potential weight control. Research has been telling us over and over again that we need to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each and every night. But besides feeling rested, why is it important? Particularly, why is it important to weight control? Read on!
Two main hormones control our appetite – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that lets our brain know we are satisfied. Once our brain gets the message, our appetite is suppressed. Leptin is produced by fat cells in our body. Ghrelin is the hormone that lets us know when we are hungry. It is secreted by the stomach. To keep the two hormones straight, think of ghrelin as the growling hungry hormone – the sound your stomach makes when you need to eat something stat!
Several research studies have been conducted on the correlation of ghrelin and leptin levels in the body and the amount of sleep an individual gets. One particular study was conducted with 1,027 participants from a Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study. They concluded that participants who slept less than 8 hours a night was proportional to an increased BMI. In addition, they also found that less sleep was associated with increased ghrelin levels and decreased leptin levels. Meaning you have more of that growling hungry signaling hormone and less of the satiation (feeling of fullness and content) floating around in your body. According to the researchers, “(This) hormonal pattern is consistent with decreased energy expenditure and increased appetite and obesity.” Think about it. Have you ever gotten only 5 or 6 hours of sleep and then noticed the following day you could not get full or satisfied with anything you ate? Did you find yourself eating more than you normally would? More likely than not, it was due to the fact that your hormones, leptin and ghrelin, were out of balance causing miscommunications between your brain and your stomach.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), in 1960 over 1 million individuals were surveyed to see how much sleep they would get each night. The average was 8.0 – 8.9 hours each night. In years 2000 to 2002, the NSF found the average American slept 6.9 – 7.0 hours each night. Today, it is closer to 5.0 – 6.0 hours each night. According to a Medscape sleep research article, “Sleep loss alters the ability of leptin and ghrelin to accurately signal caloric need and could lead to excessive caloric intake when food is freely available. The findings also suggest that compliance with a weight-loss diet involving caloric restriction may be adversely affected by sleep restriction.”
In conclusion, be sure to not put sleep on the backburner if you are looking to live a healthy lifestyle. Even more important, don’t short change yourself with losing precious zzzzz’s if you have a weight loss goal. Getting appropriate (and much needed) sleep consistently on a daily basis is important mentally, physically, and emotionally.