Is a Lack of Sleep Making Us Fat?

If you’re struggling to shed some pounds and find yourself impulse eating a little more often than you’d like, it might not be your willpower that you’re having issues with – it could be your sleep patterns.

Sleep plays a pretty crucial role in the regulation of our appetites and losing out on it can be causing us to turn to the wrong kind of food when we’re hungry.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most U.S. adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to be able to function properly during the day. Unfortunately, the majority of us are getting only 6.5 hours a night, and up to 30% of adults are getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Yikes!

Appetite and Sleep Regulation

Not only is a lack of sleep negatively impacting our overall health and well-being by causing heart disease and even diabetes, it looks as though it is also causing us to make poor food choices.

How is that possible? It’s all about our sleep patterns, which are based on circadian rhythms. To understand how the amount of sleep that we get affects our appetite and the way that we process food, we have to understand how  the human body clock works.

To understand how sleep affects appetite and how we process food, we have to understand how our body clock (or circadian rhythm) works.

Circadian Rhythms and Appetite

Our body clocks operate on a natural 24-hour cycle of dark and light. If you’ve ever suffered from jet lag, you understand what can happen to the body when its clock has become desynchronized.

Sleep and the circadian rhythms that control it determine not only our energy levels and how tired we are throughout the day, they also play a big role in appetite regulation and food processing in the body.

This means that disrupting your body clock and not getting enough sleep can put you at a very real risk of gaining weight or even developing diabetes.

Our blood sugar and hormone levels play a huge part in how we process food, and sleep deprivation has been shown to cause issues with both, causing binge eating of unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and fat.

Healthier Sleep and Diet Choices

So how can we make better food choices when we’re sleep deprived? The following tips will help to make sure that binging isn’t a part of your day if you aren’t getting enough sleep regularly.

1. Don’t ditch breakfast

If you’re sleep deprived, skipping breakfast can cause you to have even less control over your appetite, so be sure to have a morning meal that is low in carbs but high in protein and healthy fats. This will help you to feel fuller and regulate your blood sugar levels. Think eggs and avocado slices.

2. Increase your daily protein intake

Eating meals three times a day that are high in protein helps to reduce your overall caloric intake throughout the day, without leaving you feeling deprived. Aim for getting at least 250 grams of lean meat in your daily diet.

3. Track your carbs

Carbohydrates have a unique role when it comes to sleep patterns, as not getting enough of them can decrease the amount of REM sleep you get each night, leaving you feeling groggy and unrested. While you want to avoid too many of them during the day, making sure to get plenty of complex carbs at dinner will help you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Consider adding sweet potatoes, lentils, or quinoa to your dinner menu.

Using these tips to get your diet and sleep patterns back on track may go a long way to jump starting healthier life choices, and could even help you to shed some of those extra pounds – all while feeling better rested and more capable of taking on your day. That’s a win-win!