Sleep & Weight Loss

Several of the people I meet, speak to and consult mention that they have an inadequate sleep. They are surprised when I respond saying that lack of sleep could easily be one of the reasons for weight gain. Obviously, the question before us is, just exactly why does inadequate sleep impact you in this way?

Your body needs rest. Research tells you that a minimum of eight hours a day is necessary. Anything less and your body can feel foggy, drowsy and fatigued the next day. You cannot compensate by catching up either. Often, lack of sleep is an outcome of an over worked body or one that is stressed and anxious. This lifestyle sets off a dangerous chain of reactions as your body attempts to cope. You constantly feel hungry as the pressure generates hormones to deal and you feel hungry in response to the flood of hormones. The hunger would invariably be for fast burning sugar which then kicks off the chain reaction of wanting more sugar. Before you know it, you are binge eating.

A research team at the University of Chicago attempted to study this cycle. They noticed that sleep deprivation had effects similar to the activation of the endocannabinoid system (eCB). The eCB is a key player in the activation of regulation of appetite and energy level. In simple terms, your body was trying to cope with the lack of sleep by eating more. As soon as their research subjects slept more, their cravings for unhealthy, junk food would dissipate or reduce.

The body regulates its need to eat by activating the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells you to eat, and leptin tells you to stop. Both these hormones have a longer window to remain active if you are awake. The only way to fix them is to put them to sleep which means you go to bed first.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.