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Health Articles

The Strong Connection Between Your Snooze Time and Your Waistline

Many years ago in my college days, I went home for the holiday break.   I didn’t really watch what I was eating (although I did not overindulge) nor did I exercise.  I still drank alcohol a few nights a week as well.  After my 4 weeks of fun I was back at the university, and all of a sudden my 3 roommates are begging me to tell them how I lost weight.  Lost weight??  I did?? To my surprise, I realized I did look slimmer than before and my clothes were a bit loose.  I had no idea how that had happened.  Then it hit me:  the only real change I’d made (although unwittingly) was getting a full 8-9 hours of zzz’s a night at fairly constant times, when previously I certainly had not been.  (Let me put it this way; a nickname I had in college was “Vampire” because I had such an erratic sleep schedule.)   So as you may guess, I am now a firm believer in how important sleep is in regards to maintaining a healthy weight, as well as in regards to weight loss. 


A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that inadequate sleep promotes overeating and weight gain.  As more studies are being done, more information is gathered to support and explain this occurrence.


Sleep deprivation often has a staggering effect on hormones related to appetite and satiety.  Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses the appetite, are reduced, while the levels of ghrelin, the appetite-stimulant hormone, are elevated.  Therefore, these two hormones cannot accurately signal calorie need.  A recent study done at the University of Chicago restricted a group’s sleep time for a couple days.  Not only did their appetites increase substantially in proportion to the lack of sleep, but also their desire for high-carbohydrate, high-density foods increased by a whopping 45%.


Sleep loss appears to also have a significant effect on the hypothalamic pituitary system and the autonomic nervous system.  These changes then affect glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, which are both often a definitive step in the direction of type II diabetes and obesity.  Furthermore, cutting short your zzz’s alters your growth hormone secretion pattern, reduces your thyroid-stimulating hormone levels, increases evening cortisol levels, increases sympathetic activity, and decreases parasympathetic activity, all of which negatively affect proper glucose metabolism.


If getting enough sleep is much easier said than done, or if you think you may have a sleep disorder, make an appointment with your physician so that you can get on the right path to getting a great snooze.

By Lauren Murphy



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