Is Your Lack of Sleep Making You Gain Weight?

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How much sleep did you get last night?

If you are like most people, not enough.  Many adults, and children for that matter, subsist on too little sleep and this is proving to have a direct connection between slower metabolism and overeating and weight gain.  A study done from UC Berkley confirms that  getting 6 or less hours of sleep a night has been proven to increase hunger  and weaken motivation to stay away from fatty, junky foods.  According to the New York Times:

The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. On days when the subjects had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.

Being intuitive human beings, I think most of us already know this.  If you have ever pulled an all nighter, stayed awake with a sick child, or just had a terrible night of insomnia, you know how it feels to wake up sluggish and unmotivated to have a good day of eating. I know when this has ever happened to me my hunger goes through the roof – and it wasn’t for brown rice and tofu.

Why does hunger rise when we are sleep deprived?  It all has to do with your brain.  Cortisol, the queen of the stress hormones, increases when we are under duress, namely lack of sleep.  Cortisol is one hormone responsible for increasing appetite. And so the cycle begins.

Lack of sleep reeks havoc on your body in many other different ways (click HERE to see a great visual of this). Don’t blame your lack of sleep on the extra pounds you might be holding onto.  Here are three ways to insure a good nights sleep.

  1. Know how much sleep you need.  Everyone has a different threshold for the amount of sleep they need, but on average, adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  And children need much more according to their age.  For one week, make it a priority to get into bed 8 hours before you need to wake up.  Turn off the TV, the cell phone and the iPad and turn off the light.
  2. Do Not Drink Alcohol Before Bed.  While  a glass of wine before bed might make you sleepy at first, it is well established that alcohol disrupts your REM sleep, or deepest part of sleeping that we all need to regenerate and renew. In short, stay away from alcohol well before bedtime and don’t have any liquids right before bed for that matter.   Late night runs to the bathroom also disrupt sleep.
  3. Eat For Sleep.  One of the best natural sedatives is tryptophan (think post-Thanksgiving drowsiness), an amino acid found in many plant and animal foods.  Tryptophan is a precursor for making serotonin, the feel good, calming hormone.  If you are not feeling drowsy before bed you could try one of these snacks as a way to kick start your sleep.
  • A cup of skim milk with a handful of blueberries
  • 3 cups of lowfat popcorn
  • Plain greek yogurt topped with berries and a drizzle of honey

This might do the trick, but the key is to make your sleep a priority!  Do you have any tips for a better nights sleep? Have you seen  your hunger increase in response to a bad nights sleep?  Please LIKE this post below and share with your friends AND let me know how you feel in the comments below!

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