Sleep + Weight Gain: How lack of sleep can shape your body

Sleep + Weight Gain: How lack of sleep can shape your body


Edgar teaches us all how to be a lean mean sleeping machine.
Did you get enough sleep last night?

​I know that I didn’t. Probably haven’t for at least the last couple of months. This could be due to a variety of reasons—not feeling well, stress, snoring boyfriend, Game of Thrones (seriously, how did I miss this over the past six years? All I can say is: Season 3…my entire world view has been shattered). There are so many excuses I know that I make for myself, and they have grown in size and scope as I get older. Long gone are the days of mid-afternoon naps and 7pm bedtimes. Being as active as I am, and as I know most of you are, sleep is essential, especially for repairing muscles. But did you know that a lack of sleep can actually cause you to gain weight? I had heard this anecdotally but never looked at it scientifically…before now (y’all really keep me honest, did you know that?).

So, if you’re like me and you’ve heard that sleep can have a negative impact on your weight but never knew why, or if you’ve been working out and eating right but just can’t seem to be on the track that you want to be with your weight and you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep, the lack of zzz’s might be your problem. Research has shown that sleep deprivation can cause changes in your body’s appetite regulating hormones and blood sugar, and can even give you the munchies.

On average, sleep-deprived people consume almost 400 extra calories per day (385 to be precise). Let’s do a little math here. There are 3,500 calories in a pound. Say you’re up late on average 3 nights per week (being conservative here). 52 weeks in a year…3 nights per week…that’s 156 nights of deprived sleep. You could be looking at an extra 60,000 calories or 17 pounds of weight gain per year. Yikes!
But how? Why? Research has shown that even a single night of sleep deprivation causes the body’s appetite regulating hormones to go off kilter. Leptin, the only hormone in the body that triggers a satiety message, is decreased in a sleep deprived state. Ghrelin, the big daddy of appetite hormones, is increased. The math is easy: decreased satiety + increased hunger = more hunger, less fullness…you get the picture.

Remember the article we posted about the metabolic effects of chronic stress a little while ago? The stress hormone cortisol comes into play here as well. Research demonstrates an increase in blood sugar in those who haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep. In some people, that increase in blood sugar is so pronounced that on days when healthy people have gotten three hours less than their normal amount of sleep, they have levels that you might see in a pre-diabetic state—and that those levels resolve after getting normal sleep time.
This might be ok if the day after sleep deprivation we reached for things like crudites and hummus or a big, fresh salad. But instead, we seem to reach out for all the fatty, carby foods we can find. This may be due to the fact that a lack of sleep can actually trigger the same neural pathways that smoking marijuana does. Endocannabinoid levels have been found to be higher and more persistent in those who have markedly less sleep than normal—and these chemicals are responsible for activating pleasure centers that respond to food intake…food that is high salt, high fat, or sweet, that is. Ever have the mid-afternoon munchies at work? You may have endocannabinoids to thank for that.
So, here we are, armed with a bunch of information. What do we do with it? Sometimes it is not easy when life gets in the way of schedules (like when we have early morning training plans but have to watch just one…more…episode) but, as with anything else, taking baby steps in the right direction is better than doing nothing. Do y’all have anything in particular that you do to ensure that you get a full night of rest every night? What about when you know that you have to be up early but aren’t tired? When you wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep? Excited to hear from you.
Blog by Lauren Badell, RB teacher and nutrition guru. 
(1) Comments
  1. Sounds like a win-win to me: sleep more, weigh less! Wish it were that simple for me, inow in my mid-60’s and only able to get around 5 hrs. /night. I figure as long as I’m functioning and feeling well during the day I must be getting about what I need–here’s hoping, and thanks for the good info!

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