Maintaining a healthy weight is hard, and there are many factors that make it harder. But did you know that sleep can be one of them? Can getting 40 winks help keep off that extra 40 pounds?

Poor Sleep Disrupts The Balance Of Hunger Hormones

There are two hormones that control our feelings of hunger: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is produced in the stomach and reminds you to eat when you’re empty. Leptin, on the other hand, is produced by fat cells and signals that you are full. Not getting enough sleep may push these hormones out of whack.

For instance, a recent study cited by WebMD took 12 young men and found that their ghrelin levels were way higher when they were sleep deprived than when they got 10 hours of sleep. This hormone imbalance meant that they ate more when they slept less.

It isn’t just that ghrelin production is disturbed by poor sleep. According to an article in Medscape, during deep sleep, parasympathetic nervous system activity (the part of the autonomic nervous system that tells organs to stop or start an action) increases, and this contributes to fat cells producing more leptin. Both an epidemiologic study of over 1000 people who slept only 4 hours a night and a study on healthy young adults backed up these findings, recording 16% less leptin and 15% more ghrelin in folks who didn’t get enough sleep versus people who did.

In short, lack of sleep makes it harder for your endocrine system to monitor your caloric needs and can lead to you eating too much.

Poor Sleep Makes It Harder To Avoid Snacking

Making changes in something as integral to your daily routine as eating is hard. It takes a lot of self-control just to pass by a plate of cookies and not reach for one, and self-control takes energy, including the energy you get from a good night’s sleep.

This has been backed up by a thorough study published by Elsevier Ltd. They published data from the Nathan Kline Institute, which had people report how well they slept and then fill out something called the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire. The study found that people who had trouble sleeping also had trouble controlling how much they ate. They tended to overeat whenever there was palatable food available. Interestingly, the paper found that it didn’t matter how long a person stayed in bed. Rather, the deciding factor on improving impulse control was how well a person slept.

Time Not Sleeping May Be Spent Eating

A Harvard paper cited an observational study’s findings that people tend to snack more with the extra time afforded by not sleeping. There is also one Japanese study that found people with poor sleep habits eating out more, snacking more and making poor dietary choices in general.

This is perhaps something that you have experienced yourself. If you are up late at night and don’t want to wake everyone else in the household, there is a limit to what you can do. Often these empty hours find you taking in empty calories just to stave off boredom.

Maintaining a healthy weight can feel like an uphill battle sometimes, but getting enough rest will likely help you. At the very least, it will cut down on the time that you have to circle the kitchen.