Ahhhh … a good night’s sleep. Surely one of life’s simple and oh-so-necessary pleasures, a good night’s sleep is one of the pillars for good health. Our mothers have known this for millenia, and researchers have shown that sleep helps us rest, restore, rebuild, and detoxify ourselves. Current research shows that a lack of sleep is contributing to the explosive rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the modern world. In other words, when you don’t get enough sleep you not only deprive yourself of the health benefits, you also put yourself at greater risk for serious health concerns.
Researchers have also found that those who sleep less, eat more. A study out of Columbia University showed that sleep-deprived people eat more. The Columbia study found that female participants who slept only four hours a night (instead of nine) ate an additional 329 calories per day; and male participants an additional 263 more calories per day. Eating an average of 300 extra calories per day equals more than 30 pounds of weight gain in a year! A similar study done by the Mayo Clinic saw participants eat as much as 500 extra calories per day, which is a weight gain of a pound a week.
Other sleep studies found that those who sleep more,weigh less. And these results proved true no matter the age or gender of the subjects. In The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight through Better Sleep,author Michael Breus, PhD, says, “sleep can boost your metabolism, decrease your hunger, and increase your energy and willpower. The science is there to overwhelming show that better sleep can help you be healthier, happier, and even thinner.”
One of the reasons why you should “sleep more to eat less”is to better manage your hormone levels, especially cortisol, leptin and ghrelin—three of the hormones which signal when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Leptin is the hormone that signals when you’ve had enough to eat, acting as an appetite-suppressant, and leptin levels decreasewhen you are sleep-deprived. Ghrelin is an appetite-inducing hormone, and its levels increasewhen you’re sleep-deprived. Ghrelin also plays a role in your feelings of well-being. So when you’re tired (and cranky) your ghrelin levels increase, which encourages you to eat as an emotional comfort. Cortisol levels also increase when you’re sleep-deprived, and it makes you more likely to crave sugar and carbs.
Sleeping less also lowers your metabolism rate, and a slow metabolic rate is linked to weight gain. And when you’re tired and feeling less energetic, you’re more likely to seek a quick energy fix, often from sugar and carbs.
If you’re one of the millions self-reporting a regular lack of sleep, try some of these approaches for more shut-eye:
- Develop good sleeping habits—a regular sleep/wake schedule; a clean, quiet, peaceful bedroom; relaxation strategies; less technology.
- Exercise regularly, preferably earlier in the day.
- No alcohol, and no caffeine after noon.
- Eat enough throughout the day to avoid a large meal close to bedtime.
- Practice mindfulness to calm yourself before sleep.
The more you sleep the less you eat.