Although it’s not uncommon for people to gain and/or lose a few pounds throughout the year, most of us can pinpoint the reasons why. Stress, too many calories, lifestyle changes, injuries, and illness can all have an impact on body weight. If you’re at all tuned into your life, you probably know why your belly is a little rounder than usual.
Gaining weight and not knowing or understanding the reason why, however, is downright annoying. If you’ve been experiencing weight gain, but aren’t sure what how to attribute it, you may want to take a look at your sleep schedule.
Sleep plays a vital role in the health of your body—from your brain to your muscles. Sleep is also hugely important to hormone and metabolism regulation. If you don’t get enough sleep regularly, these delicate systems are thrown way out of whack, which can have unhealthy impacts on your body.
Studies have shown people who people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to become obese than people who get the recommended 7-9 hours—almost 30% more likely.
Sleep and Your Hormones
On a hormonal level, studies have found sleeplessness can alter satiety hormones. These hormones, ghrelin and leptin control when your body wants and doesn’t want food. Leptin controls your long-term energy balance, which means it can help you feel like you’re not hungry. Ghrelin, on the other hand, acts fast and makes you feel hungry. Without the proper amount of sleep, your body can overproduce ghrelin and underproduce leptin.
Being awake so long takes a lot of energy, so it’s natural for your body to increase the hunger hormone in order for you to intake enough calories to keep your brain and body functioning in an awake state. You might feel hungry because of the hormones, but your actual energy needs aren’t that high. You end up consuming a lot of calories you just don’t need, especially if you’re just lying in bed scrolling through social media.
These changes in hormones can also cause you to crave high-fat, high-salt, and high-sugar comfort foods. Again, craving high-calorie foods is a normal reaction for your body under high-stress, or high-energy demands. But those energy demands aren’t actually real, your brain just thinks they are because you’re constantly awake and not allowing your body to reset and go through its normal rhythms.
Sleep and Your DNA
Lack of sleep can also change your body at a molecular level. A recent study found that people who were kept awake for a full 24 hours had differentiations in their gene expression than those who slept a full 8 hours. Those changes in the DNA are associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. The genes also regulate fat cells. Scientists believe that these DNA changes, especially if sleeplessness occurs frequently, may cause the body to remember to make those changes permanent.
Sleep and Your Health
Poor sleeping habits can also cause a decrease in glucose tolerance, which may increase your blood sugar levels.
Not sleeping enough is also linked to a lack of physical activity. (Who wants to work out when they’re exhausted?) Poor sleep habits also carry serious health risks such as heart attacks and diabetes. Sleeping poorly also negatively impacts your brain function, sex drive, even your skin.
If you don’t sleep enough, your body goes into what’s called “sleep debt.” You can make it up by sleeping more the next night, but if you continually add more and more debt, you’ll eventually crash. Your body wasn’t meant to function without sleep.
So, if you’ve been trying to lose weight and have been unsuccessful, or have noticed you seem have to have gained a few pounds seemingly without reason, do yourself a favor and go to bed earlier.