Sleep deprivation and bad quality sleep have been linked to weight gain for years. But new research gives us much clearer reasons for why that is. Here are the five most common explanations for why you might have put on a few pounds...
1) Poor sleep is interfering with your appetite. A lack of sleep messes with the hormones that trigger and put a dampener on your appetite. A bad night’s sleep could dull the effectiveness of peptide 1, a hormone produced in your intestine that encourages you to feel full. Similarly, it could also promote the production of ghrelin, the hormone that makes you feel hungry. This leaves you with an appetite that can be hard to satisfy, even when you’ve eaten enough food.
2) Being tired makes eating feel extra pleasurable. When you’re sleep deprived, levels of endocannabinoids in your brain increase. These compounds are linked directly to your appetite, and they work on the reward system of your brain – meaning you get feelings of pleasure when you eat. (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, also turns on these compounds. That’s why people tend to “get the munchies”.)
3) Lack of sleep messes with your gut bacteria. Changes to your gut bacteria can mess with your ability to process nutrients. During the Swedish study, scientists noticed that after just two days of sleep loss, the volunteers’ bacteria mirrored those seen in the guts of obese people.
4) Poor quality sleep makes you burn fewer calories. While studying a volunteer group, the research team found that the men burned 5-20% fewer calories after a night of no sleep. This calorie-burning was included in tasks as basic as breathing and digesting food.
5) Skimping on sleep makes you an impulsive eater. Being sleep deprived doesn’t just affect your body – it affects your eating habits too. The research team found that when people were tired, they bought food higher in calories and quantity than when they were well-rested. This is probably because sleep deprivation impairs your higher-level thinking – it boosts your chances of being impulsive.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Make sure nothing is disturbing your sleep; you could see big changes in your weight and your health.