In a University of Chicago study, six nights with only 4 hours of sleep reduced levels of the hormone leptin (which signals satiety) by 18% and increased levels of ghrelin, an appetite trigger, by about 30%. These changes caused an increase in appetite and cravings for starchy foods like cookies, potato chips, and bread jumped 45%. In other words, you don’t get enough sleep, your appetite increases and you don’t feel as full when you eat. This can result in overeating and weight gain.
In a joint study conducted by Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin, over 1000 volunteers tracked the amount of sleep they got, while doctors measured their ghrelin and leptin levels and their weight.
Those who slept less than eight hours a night had lower levels of leptin, higher levels of ghrelin, and higher levels of body fat. Those who slept the fewest hours per night weighed the most.
The best way to make sure that you are getting enough sleep is to determine what time you need to get up in the morning and then keep going to bed earlier, until you can wake up at that time without setting your alarm. This is the natural amount of sleep that your body needs. If you have been running a sleep deficit, you may need to fine-tune your bedtime after you have had a few nights of good sleep.
If you have to go without enough sleep, you can try to manage your appetite by eating slowly (your body takes about 20 minutes to register fullness) and choosing low calorie, high fiber foods or small amounts of lean protein. These will help fill you up without containing a lot of calories. Caffeine can also provide a short-term fix, but won’t make up for a long-term sleep deficit. Just don’t combine that cup of coffee with a doughnut or other sweet.
How do you make sure that you get enough sleep? How do your sleep patterns effect your diet? Tell me in the comments.