Sleep imageHave you ever heard that sleep affects weight? It’s true; studies show lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. But how?

While not getting enough sleep may cause us to feel too tired to exercise or inspire high-calorie, pick-me-up snacking, like lattes, potato chips and candy, there is another reason why being groggy causes weight gain. It’s our hormones.

In simple terms, lack of adequate sleep influences how hormones perform, like leptin, the hormone responsible for signaling fullness. When we don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels fall; this cues our brain to send out messages to eat more even if we just finished eating a large meal. We can feel forever hungry when we are sleep deprived and that false hunger will likely cause us to fill that void by reaching for high-calorie, nutrient-deficient foods.

To make matters worse, too little sleep spikes the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, and interferes with how the body responds to insulin. Higher levels of cortisol cause the body to conserve energy, which tricks it into hanging on to fat. Similarly, insulin–the hormone that transforms certain foods into energy–doesn’t work properly; prompting more of it than is necessary. This results in the body choosing to store more fat. Not good news when we consider we tend to eat more when we are sleep deprived.

The bottom line: Lack of sufficient sleep can derail an otherwise perfect diet and exercise program. Next week I’ll share simple strategies to make getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night a priority and easy to attain.

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