Can Insufficient Sleep Add Inches to Your Waistline?

There’s a strong link between energy-regulating hormones and how much sleep you regularly get. In fact, we want patients to understand that insufficient sleep due to issues like sleep apnea or insomnia can not only make it harder to shed extra pounds, it can contribute to weight gain.

Our experts explain why sleep problems could be behind your weight issues and what you can do about it.

Understanding how your body regulates weight

Each day, your body carries out complex processes in an effort to balance energy, and hormones play a central role. The following are important hormones related to weight management:

Sleep and your hormones

The glands that produce hormones are collectively known as the endocrine system, and this system is extremely sensitive to how much sleep you get. Your glands secrete hormones based on an internal clock referred to as the circadian system, and it syncs up to a 24-hour day. Sleep is a key regulator of the circadian system, and thus the endocrine glands and the hormones they secrete. Failing to get enough quality sleep throws your circadian system off, and has a direct effect on weight-related hormones.

Missing even a small amount of sleep has consequences

You might think that missing out on a little sleep here and there isn’t a big deal, but our experts warn that you’re mistaken. The Endocrine Society presented results that suggest missing as little as 30 minutes of sleep a day during the week is enough to promote weight gain and increase the risk for obesity. This means if you have a busy work week and miss out on a small amount of sleep, you can’t just make it up on the weekend. Lack of sleep, even by a little, has long-term consequences on how your body regulates energy.

Insufficient sleep throws appetite-regulating hormones off

The effect of poor sleep on hormones that regulate your appetite is clear from research. Studies show that insufficient sleep reduces leptin and raises ghrelin levels, and that regularly missing out on good sleep is linked to a higher BMI. Remember, leptin is the hormone that tells your brain you’re full, and ghrelin tells your brain that you’re hungry and need to eat. So less sleep results in feeling more hungry.

Lack of sleep increases food intake

If you’re wondering whether the decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin results in eating more calories, the answer is yes. An analysis of published studies reveals that people eat an average of 400 more calories the day after getting a poor night’s sleep. There’s no change in how many calories you burn each day, so it’s easy to see how insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain by throwing off key hormones that regulate your appetite.

At ApneCare Sleep Lab, we’re experts at diagnosing sleep problems. Feeling tired and unrested during the day could be a sign of sleep trouble. To schedule an appointment for sleep testing call one of our offices in Mesa, Arizona, or Bakersfield, California, or book an appointment online.


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