In this article I want to examine the effects of sleep duration on your appetite the following day. As weight loss depends on calories, your ability to resist the temptations of overeating (which are all around us) plays a pivotal role in your chances of successfully losing weight.
Your control, or lack thereof, over your appetite, are therefore crucial elements in your diet process.
One of the things which influence your appetite is your sleep duration. I’m not going to go into the various health benefits of a good night’s sleep or discuss the nature of the possible health ramifications of lack of sleep in this article. I want to focus on appetite.
What happens to your appetite when you sleep less and why does this happen?
There are numerous studies that show that lack of sufficient sleep leads to an increase in appetite and hunger.
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago , 12 healthy men in their 20s were examined under conditions of sleep restriction and of sleep extension.
The study showed that under conditions of sleep restriction, appetite increased by over 20%. In particular, the men exhibited cravings for high calorie, carbohydrate rich foods (often the very sort of foods which are highly deterimental to weight maintenance).
It doesn’t take long for the effects of sleep reduction to manifest. In another study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research in 2008 , it was shown that appetite rose dramatically after a single night of sleep reduction.
This study was supported by another one which examined 10 young men over a period of 2 nights of restricted sleep . Lack of sleep was found to be associated with a reduction in satiety (an increase in hunger).
The question is, why is this happening? The answer is that the duration of sleep influences your hormones.
Lack of Sleep and Your Appetite Hormones
The way you sleep and the length of sleep changes the amount of hormones your body secretes. Mainly, the focus of this article is on two hormones: Leptin and Ghrelin.
The reason why these two hormones are important is that they have a tremendous effect on your appetite. Leptin is a hormone that promotes feeling of satiety. It helps you feel full. It reduces appetite.
Ghrelin, on the other hand, works in an opposite way. The more ghrelin you have in your system, the higher your hunger gets and the more likely you are to overeat, especially on high calorie, carb rich foods.
In a study done in Wisconsin, over 1,000 people were examined and their sleep habits analyzed . The conclusions showed that those who slept fewer hours had less leptin in their system and more ghrelin. The study also showed that those who slept less had a higher Body Mass Index (they tended to weigh more).
It’s clear that if you want to curb your appetite you have to get enough sleep. I recommend sleeping for 8 hours each night (more for teens and children). It is simply the easiest way to reduce appetite and it will help you lose weight.
The studies I presented here did little to examine the relationship between sleep and stress. I believe that lack of sleep may also induce stress eating episodes which can further increase your calorie consumption and damage your weight loss efforts even further. If you consider the effects that the stress hormone, cortisol, can have on your abdominal fat, it’s just one more reason to get enough sleep.
In the modern world, we sleep less. Some say that the average length of sleep has reduced by about 2 hours over the past few decades. This is something that affects your health and your body.
Make sure that sleep becomes a priority in your life and that you give it the time it and you deserve.
1. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Penev P, Van Cauter E. Brief communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels, and increased hunger and appetite. Ann Intern Med. 2004 Dec 7;141(11):846-50.
2. Schmid SM, Hallschmid M, Jauch-Chara K, Born J, Schultes B. A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. J Sleep Res. 2008 Sep;17(3):331-4. Epub 2008 Jun 28.
3. MAGEE, C. A., HUANG, X.-F., IVERSON, D. C. and CAPUTI, P. (2009), Acute sleep restriction alters neuroendocrine hormones and appetite in healthy male adults. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 7: 125–127. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-8425.2009.00396.x
4. Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E, 2004 Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Med 1(3): e62. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062.