How Sleep Deprivation Causes Fat Gain

‘I can sleep when I’m dead’ – modern society seems to have placed a badge of honour on those who work more at the expense of their sleep and health. Take a read of our tips.   

Working overtime and doing 12 hour days all seem to be the essential signs of motivated ‘successful’ individuals. But what use is ‘success’ if you are too ill, too rundown and too tried to enjoy the fruits of your labour?  

In today’s article I will shed light on what happens to your body internally when you sacrifice sleep for those extra 2-3 hours of unproductive midnight ‘productivity’. 

We have all been there, that feeling of not being yourself after just one night of poor quality sleep. You usually find a good night sleep the following night, or a good quality nap, puts it right – to an extent, but after 3 or 4 days of poor quality sleep, it builds up and you feel as though you’ve become a different person. But what if that feeling of just ‘being tired’ was more to do with your hormones being out of sync than feeling sleepy?’  

Here are 3 key hormones that go out sync when you sacrifice sleep on a regular basis and will push you towards a tired, junk food craving, fat storing machine.  

Insulin (blood sugar management) 

Numerous studies have shown that just 1 week of sleep deprivation (5-6 hours a night or less) can cause alterations in how your body handles carbohydrate intake. From my eBook and previous articles we learned that blood sugar management is your body’s response to carbohydrates (glucose) floating around your body and its ability to drive these into cells where it can be used as fuel. 

In one study, a measure of glucose tolerance (ability to handle glucose) was nearly 40% slower in the sleep-debt condition (less than 6 hours) than after recovery, and the insulin response (what drives the carbs into the cell) to glucose was reduced by 30%! If your body is constantly left in a state where it can’t handle and utilize carbohydrates properly then you are putting yourself at a much higher risk of developing diabetes and other cardiovascular disease! 

Not only that but, if your body can’t stabilize your blood sugar effectively, you will experience blood sugar spike and slumps, and start to get tired. Ever felt tired after taking a big meal and dessert? This is the same process at work! When your blood sugar drops it’s extremely dangerous to your body, so your body will signal you to eat, but not just eat, eat sugar to get your blood sugar back up to baseline levels! The chances of you getting the amount you need right as slim so you will as likely over consume, resulting in another spike and crash in blood sugar – starting to see a problem? 

Remember that your body is already in a state where it isn’t able to effectively utilize carbohydrates, calories and energy! So all those extra calories you are consuming to balance out your blood sugar will have to find a home somewhere – lucky for you your fat cells are more than happy to accommodate. 

Leptin & Ghrelin

Leptin decreases hunger and is secreted primarily in fat cells, but also in the stomach, heart, and skeletal muscle. Ghrelin increases hunger and is secreted primarily in the lining of the stomach. Sleep deprivation has been shown to lower Leptin and increase Ghrelin levels, essentially lowering the hormone that tells you that you are full and increasing the hormone that tells you to feast. 

Research subjects were found to have an increased sense of hunger and tended to reach for carbohydrate-dense, sweet, and salty foods when sleep deprived. Sleep loss, therefore, seems to alter the ability of leptin and ghrelin to accurately signal caloric need and could lead to excessive caloric intake when food is freely available. The findings also suggest that compliance with a weight-loss diet involving caloric restriction may be adversely affected by sleep restriction. 

But let’s be honest, you didn’t need me to tell you that. We have all experienced the feeling of uncontrolled hunger we get when we are tired, especially for junk food. 

Tie this in with point one  

Your blood sugar management and ability to effectively handle carbohydrate becomes impaired, your body is pumping out hormones that are telling you that you are hungry, and you’re reaching for all the wrong things to eat, with the hormone telling you to stop being suppressed – Fantastic! 

As you can see the old mentality of you can sleep when you are dead may actually become more relevant than you think if you keep burning the candle at both ends. Obviously there will be times when lack of sleep is unavoidable, but, once you know the effect it is going to have on your body, you can plan for it, and have better control of how you handle it. If you are having trouble sleeping, or staying asleep, then next week’s article will be one you won’t want to miss!  

I will list my sleep protocol I use to help my clients get a good solid 8-hours sleep a night! 

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