Did you know…a lack of sleep can make you hungry?

We all know we don’t feel awesome when we don’t get enough sleep, but if you’re not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours each night, it could also contribute to imbalances involving hormones, fertility, weight gain, and more. 

Sleep is an opportunity for your body and brain to recover from the day, replenish energy, and escape the effects of stress. But when you work late, aren’t properly nourished, or you can’t free your mind from worry, sleep suffers, adding stress to your body and contributing to problems with immunity, digestion, fertility, concentration, mood, memory, and more.

When you enter the deep sleep stage, where most energy restoration occurs, a part of your nervous system shuts down, adding to the calm, vegetative state you need for a restful sleep. As the nervous system slows, there is also a decrease in a group of stress hormones called glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids have multiple functions, but when it comes to getting much needed sleep, you want these stress hormones to be low.  When you don’t get enough sleep, however, glucocorticoids increase, meaning your body interprets the situation as stressful. And as we know, stress of any kind is not good for our health.

Overeating and weight gain are often associated with a lack of sleep, due to two hormones – ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger, while leptin decreases hunger, causing a feeling of fullness after a meal. When a person sleeps, leptin levels normally rise, telling the brain it has enough energy (aka food) for the night. The result is you don’t need to eat. But if you don’t get enough sleep, the opposite occurs and the brain is convinced it needs to eat, tells your digestive system it needs to eat. Bottom line: sleep deprivation can lead to hunger that you don’t even have.

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