How many hours of sleep do you normally get each night? 5? 6? 7? 8? More at the weekends? Oh, lucky you if you do!
Everybody knows that getting enough sleep is important. Well, we soon find out if we don’t. There’s nothing as lousy as yawning your way through a day and just never getting on top of things. What you may not have realised is that getting your zzzzzs can affect your body weight too.
Seriously? Yes, seriously. I know it seems counter-intuitive. I mean, we are always being advised that being as active as possible is the way to go, so how could sleeping more help?
Well, it’s not that the scientists are recommending that we spend the whole day in bed, but recent research has shown that people who sleep more than around seven hours a day are less likely to be overweight. Children who don’t sleep enough are also affected.
The theory is that sleep affects hormones that control appetite, metabolism and calorie burning. A hormone called leptin tells your brain when you’ve had enough to eat and when it should start burning calories. When you are sleeping the amount of leptin in your body increases, tells your brain that you have enough energy, there’s no need to feel hungry. If you don’t have enough sleep, your leptin level remains low, your brain thinks you are hungry, that you don’t have enough energy and will send messages to store energy for when you need it.
The second hormone involved with sleep and weight is ghrelin, which does the opposite of leptin. It signals when you need to eat, when to stop burning calories and store energy as fat. During sleep, levels of ghrelin decrease but in sleep deprivation too much ghrelin will mean that your body thinks it’s hungry, that it should stop burning calories and start storing fat.
Some scientists think that these mechanisms evolved to have helped people in ancient times to survive long, dark winter nights when food was scarce, and eat a lot during long summer days when food was abundant.
Taking control of your body weight can be a daunting challenge. We have lots of information on changing your diet and lifestyle over on weigh2live and offer support on our Facebook page. A good (and easy!) place to start though could be thinking about your sleep patterns. Are you getting enough zzzs?
This short video provides information on recommended sleep times for children (American Academy of Paediatrics):