October 26, 2012
Get Your ZZZs or Watch Out for Weight Gain!

Your typical day may go something like this: the alarm goes off; you wake up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, wake up the kids, get them showered and dressed, cook breakfast for the family and pack lunches for everyone at the same time. Next, drive everyone to school and go to work. Put in a hard day at the office; leave to pick up the kids, the dry cleaning, dinner for the night, and run any random leftover errands. Prepare dinner, sit and eat, then help the kids with their homework. Finally, time to get everyone ready for bed and get some shut eye yourself so you can do it all again tomorrow. If you're like a lot of people, you're lucky if you even get five hours of sleep!

But realize this: If you don't want your waistline to expand over the years, you better work on making time for sleep at the end of every day, no matter how busy you are.

A 2006 analysis of women participating in the Nurses' Health Study looked at the sleep habits of more than 68,000 middle-aged women over 16 years. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, it shockingly revealed that those who sleep five or fewer hours each night weighed an average of 5.5 pounds more than those who sleep for at least seven hours. Those two extra hours of sleep may determine whether you fit into your favorite pair of jeans or not.

Women sleeping five or fewer hours per night were 32 percent more likely to experience major weight gain, defined as an increase of 33 pounds or more, and 15 percent more likely to become obese during the 16-year study period than the women who slept seven hours per night. The most shocking and confusing finding of all in relation to the one above? Women who slept less actually ate less often. So how in the world was their sleep deprivation linked to weight gain?

It comes down once again to that gremlin hormone, ghrelin! Lack of sleep results in levels of ghrelin that are 28 percent higher compared to those who get adequate sleep. And where there's ghrelin, there's leptin. Subsequently, the subjects' leptin levels decreased by about 18 percent. The combination of high ghrelin and low leptin increases appetite up to 24 percent due to lack of satiety and increased hunger. Your desire for calorie-dense carbohydrates increase, and here comes the weight gain.

The women in this study may have been eating less often, but when they did eat, it's likely they were overeating. And to add to the pot, in addition to lack of sleep, your body's trying to preserve energy and you decrease your NEAT. Everything's working against you.

So when it comes to sleep you need about seven to eight hours of good sleep each night in order to keep from gaining weight. If you have to wake up to an alarm clock, you're probably not getting enough sleep, and you'll eat more due to changing levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin. The upshot? Getting a good night's sleep is not a luxury, but rather a crucial way to improve your health.

If you would like to learn more about how sleep can affect your weight loss and some tips to a better night's sleep please watch our sleep videos.

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