Have you ever noticed that you suddenly have a large appetite after a poor night’s sleep? Well, there is scientific evidence demonstrating that a lack of sleep is tied to an increase in hunger. While the occasional poor night’s sleep may not have a large impact on our health, ongoing sleep deprivation increases ones risk of overeating and becoming overweight.
A recent study completed by the Institute of Human Nutrition found that reduced sleep may lead to a tendency to overeat. The study involved healthy, normal-weight men and women who participated in a 2-phase inpatient study in which they spent either 4 hours per night, “restricted sleep,” or 9 hours per night, “habitual sleep,” in bed. The participants in the “restricted sleep” group had a greater response to food stimuli than after “habitual sleep.”
Other research from Uppsala University in Sweden, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed that the specific brain region which contributes to appetite sensation is more activated in response to food images after one night of sleep loss than after a night of normal sleep.
The likely reason for these findings is the alteration of hormones that occurs with short sleep duration. Specifically, the reduction of leptin and increase of ghrelin form a hormonal profile associated with increased hunger and appetite for carbohydrate-rich foods.
If you’re worried about your weight and find that you have a propensity to overeat, it’s a good idea to monitor how much sleep you are getting. You may find that getting 7 to 9 solid hours of sleep per night helps to control your appetite and stave off unwanted weight gain.