Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One More Reason to Get Your 8 Hours

There's lot of research out there saying that less sleep can lead to weight gain and/or make it difficult to lost weight. It's been in the news for years that having inadequate sleep affects not only our energy levels, but certain hormones (leptin and ghrelin) which control our hunger and satiety cues. Also, the less sleep you have, the more weight gain there appears to be (meaning that someone who sleeps 5 hours will gain more than someone who sleeps 6 hours a night).

A while back I bookmarked an article that I read that I kept meaning to blog about but just never got around to, so today is that day. It was a Swedish Study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism which looked at how the brains of sleep deprived people find food more rewarding than those who get a regular good nights rest. They kept a group of volunteers awake all night then with attached sensors to measure brain activity, showed them images of food to see what kind of response was created. What they found interesting is that the part of the brain that reacts to getting a reward lit up like a Christmas tree and it was close to the same activity that results when shown food images to people who are obese. Obese people have higher brain activity suggesting they find food more rewarding that those within a more normal weight range.

So here are my thoughts on this study. It makes sense. You go without proper sleep for a while and your energy levels drop. Your energy levels drop so you don't want to do anything but stay home or go to a friends house and watch a movie. You don't want to do anything - you get bored - you eat. You're not burning off the calories as you would if you were sticking to your normal active routine. Plus your hormone levels are going to be out of whack as well! Your leptin levels are down meaning you're not being satisfied when you eat and your ghrelin levels increase which causes you to feel hunger. It's an evil cycle! It's like being trapped in a hamster wheel - no matter how hard you run, you're just not going to get anywhere.

Here's another question though. Let's say you go to bed habitually late but get up habitually early to make time to work out in the morning. Does this mean that having chronic sleep deprivation is completely messing with your system? Cause you're exercising to keep the weight off but your hormones are fighting against you constantly which are making you feel hungry and less satisfied. I wonder if there is a study about that predicament or if it is even something worth looking into

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