Lack of sleep: A weighty issue

Lethia Lee EFNEP Program Assistant

September 8, 2013

Not getting enough sleep can do more than just make you feel sluggish the next day - it can actually sabotage your weight-loss goals. When you feel tired or low on energy, you typically reach for starchy comfort foods to give you that quick burst of energy you need to make it through your hectic day. There is a scientific reason you crave those starchy foods when your energy levels start to plummet. Those foods are predominantly made up of simple carbohydrates, which mean they are broken down quickly and the glucose is absorbed into your bloodstream, providing you that quick burst of energy. The problem is that those foods are often times loaded with fat and sugar.

The science behind the sleep/weight connection is if you’re not getting enough sleep or if the sleep you are getting is not quality sleep, you are going to disrupt your metabolism. This is related to nightly hormones called ghrelin and leptin, both of which affect your appetite. These two hormones work in tandem to control how hungry and how full you feel. Your gastrointestinal tract produces ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite. Your fat cells produce leptin, which is a hormone that tells your brain that you are full. The proper production of these hormones can be thrown off balance when you get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. As a result, your leptin levels drop and your ghrelin levels increase. This will increase your appetite while also reducing the satisfaction you feel after you eat — a double whammy.

You should get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep at night, be sure to get into a nighttime routine that signals your body that it’s time for sleep. Find ways to relax your body and mind such as turning off the TV and resist the temptation to do anything that will not relax you, like drinking caffeine. You should also try to exercise at least three hours before bedtime.

This very informative and educational information was taken from Kari Hartel, RD, LD. She is a registered nutritionist, dietitian and freelance writer. She holds a bachelor of science in dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University.

For more information contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.