Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep every night to function well. Any less than this and people start to suffer consequences. One of these consequences is a spike in cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that tells the body to conserve energy. Researchers found that when people who were dieting cut back on sleep, weight loss dropped by 55%, even though caloric intake stayed the same. The reason? The dieters felt hungrier, less energetic, and less satisfied with food.
2. Sleep impacts hunger hormones
The body has two essential hormones that control hunger cues: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is responsible for signaling when the body is hungry. Leptin helps to cue when the body is full. One study found that people who slept less than 8 hours per night had higher body mass indexes (BMIs). Additionally, the researchers found that people who slept less had 15.5% less leptin and 14.9% more ghrelin. This means that people who didn’t get adequate sleep were more likely to feel hungrier without being satiated.
3. Sleep prevents insulin resistance
Insulin is an important hormone that helps to convert sugar into energy. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to develop insulin resistance, meaning more sugar remains in the bloodstream. The body then produces even more insulin, causing people to become hungrier. Poor sleep has been linked to insulin resistance. In one study, people who only got 4 hours of sleep for 6 nights experienced a 40% decrease in the ability to convert sugar to energy.
4. Sleep and hormones can be a vicious cycle
Women often report more inadequate sleep due to hormonal changes. These hormonal changes can occur around the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause and can wreak havoc on the sleep cycle. In turn, poorer sleep interferes with hormones and creates a vicious cycle. If sleep disruption is due to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, hormonal birth control may be a solution. If sleep changes are due to menopause, doctors may recommend estrogen therapy or lifestyle changes to manage symptoms. After pregnancy, sleep disruptions can put women at risk for postpartum depression, so anti-depressants or low dose estrogen therapy may be appropriate.
When to speak with a healthcare provider
Everyone experiences a restless night of sleep every now and then. But if getting a good night’s sleep is consistently a challenge, consider speaking with a healthcare provider. A physician can recommend treatments and lifestyle changes for improved sleep and effective weight loss.