Most of us wish that we could have more sleep at night. Our jobs, family, stress and other factors all can lead to less sleep.
For the most part we just deal with it and say it is a part of life. Well, it is estimated that 30% of American’s don’t get enough sleep per night.
Sleep loss can increase your risk for weight gain by altering hormone levels particularly your gut hormones like ghrelin.
Ghrelin can become activated and elevated when you are sleep deprived and ghrelin’s main job is to tell your brain to eat. So, when it is elevated guess what it is doing? Telling your brain to eat even when you don’t need the calories.
New research studies have also been able to shed some light on how sleep loss can increase weight gain by affecting certain areas of your brain.
Let me explain…
We already know that hormone levels play a vital role in controlling appetite and weight gain. There hasn’t been much research in regards to brain activity so researchers set out to determine if lack of sleep resulted in altered brain activity.
They wanted to find out if this altered brain activity created a desire to eat more calories.
The researchers had 30 participants and broke them into 2 groups. One group only slept for 4 hours and the other group slept for 9 hours. They also split it into 2 different phases for 6 days each.
At the end of the 6 days each participant went through a fasting functional MRI in order to determine brain activity when presented with a food stimulus.
The researchers noted that the participants who were sleep deprived had an increase in brain activity when presented with a food stimulus.
They also noted increased activity in the reward center of the brain.
The researchers concluded that the results showed that there was a positive link between lack of sleep and the increased potential risk of overeating, due to the activity in the brain centers that control appetite.
As I mentioned in the beginning is estimated that 30% of the population suffers from sleep loss and now research is showing us that this is one of the likely reasons why we gain weight as well as crave food when we really aren’t even hungry.
It is hard enough to control our hormone levels when we don’t get enough sleep. Now we can add trying to control our brain and it’s desire to satisfy the reward center (pleasure center) of our brain.
If it just isn’t possible to get enough sleep then the alternative is to choose foods that are going to have minimal impact on our calorie intake.
Low calorie foods such as vegetables, lean protein, and high fiber foods will help satisfy the reward center of your brain without overeating and consuming too many calories.