Do You Eat When You're Really Just Sleepy?

Sleepy Man Eating Breakfast

Sleep is important for health (which you probably already know). What you might not know is that going short on sleep can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Sleep deprivation affects your appetite, your choice of foods, your desire to exercise and the hormones that control your metabolism.

Short Sleep, Appetite and Hormones

Studies on both animals and humans show that sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite. At the same time, both tend to go for the high-carb, high-calorie foods when short on sleep. These effects might be caused by changes in two hormones: ghrelin, which tends to increase feeding, and leptin, which decreases feeding. In sleep deprived animals and humans, ghrelin goes up, leptin goes down. The result is a runaway appetite for all the wrong things.

Short Sleep Over Time

The long-running Nurses' Health Study followed 60,000 women for 16 years. When the study began, all the women were healthy and none were obese. After 16 years, women who slept five hours or less a night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese than those who slept at least seven hours a night. The short sleepers also had a 30 percent risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study. Sleep deprivation may make people too tired to exercise, which can have a big impact on weight and overall health. Not to mention, simply being awake longer increases the opportunities to eat more.

Protect your sleep — eat a balanced diet, cut back on caffeine, alcohol and late-night TV or other electronic stimulation. Don't keep high carb snack foods around; that makes it much harder to raid the kitchen at midnight. Exercise regularly (which will also help with weight loss). See your doctor if you have chronic insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.


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