We tend not to think about sleeping and eating as being interconnected; except for maybe that post-Thanksgiving “food-coma” in November. It turns out that every interaction your mind and body have with food is impacted by how well rested you are. From your mood and motivation to eat, to coordinating brain chemicals that trigger hunger, sleep not only plays a part in eating, it orchestrates it.
The balance between 2 hormones largely determines how hungry you feel. Concentrations of the appetite-suppressor, Leptin, and appetite-enhancer, Ghrelin, are radically altered when you’re sleep deprived, and not in the way you might want. In fact, a single night of sleep deprivation can cause a huge increase in food consumption.
Perhaps even more nefarious is the impact that sleep loss has on the brain’s perception of food. Sleep loss alters the daytime activity of specific brain regions related to reward prediction, emotional reaction and the drive to consume food. High-calorie junk foods appear more attractive relative to healthier alternatives, putting even well-intentioned diners at an immediate disadvantage.
Sleep and Metabolism
In a chronically sleep deprived person, reduced production of Growth Hormone, and increases in circulating levels of Cortisol, which is also linked to feelings of stress, promote insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, in turn, contributes to high blood sugar, obesity and diabetes.
Sleep Disorders and Metabolic Disease
People with OSA, which can interrupt breathing hundreds of times each night, not only have to deal with the effects of serious sleep loss, but also with frequent drops in blood oxygen and spikes in brain activation that, together, increase inflammation throughout the body. These conditions conspire to drive obesity and diabetes much faster than sleep deprivation alone.
How Healthy is Your Sleep?
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Having Trouble Sleeping?
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Brody School of Medicine
University of Chicago