How Does Staying Up Late Make You Gain Weight?


How Does Staying Up Late Make You Gain Weight?

A healthy diet and regular exercise are often touted as the two pillars of a healthy life, what’s less known is that quality sleep is the foundation on which they sit.


If you’re not getting your doctor recommended 7-9 hours a night then no amount of calorie counting and star jumping are going to keep you in good shape. Sorry!


The fast paced modern world and the omnipresence of screens has resulted in a dramatic loss in sleep. Forget sleepless in Seattle, it’s now sleepless everywhere!


Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of a whole range of physical and mental issues, anything from stress, anxiety and depression, to heart disease, strokes, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. Seems forgetting to sleep properly might mean you forget a lot of things!


A lack of sleep has also been strongly linked to weight gain and even obesity. And it is this we we’re going to take a little look at below. Hold on now, things are about to get a little hormonal…


The ‘happy’ hormone


When we’re in bed fast asleep, dreaming of scoring the winning runs or frolicking through a field with a shirtless Chris Hemsworth, our body is hard at work. A whole range of vital processes take place while we’re seemingly at rest.


One of the most important is the regulation of neurotransmitters and hormones. These being the chemical messengers that basically control how smoothly every single bodily function works.


When we sleep one of the hormones the body produces is serotonin, aka, the ‘happy hormone’. This very useful chemical messenger helps us to regulate our mood and induces in us lovely feelings of contentment and happiness. Thanks serotonin!


When we are well-rested, full of serotonin and feeling good, studies have shown we make better, healthier decisions. Inside of devouring a stack of syrup soaked pancakes for breakfast we are more likely to choose the muesli and fruit.


The ‘obesity’ hormone


Another hormone affected by how much sleep we get is leptin, also known as the ‘obesity hormone’. How did it earn such a dramatic name? Well because leptin controls our cravings.


Like serotonin, leptin levels increase the more sleep we get. When we have high levels of leptin in our system the less calories we crave. Instead of desiring a greasy hamburger we will be perfectly satisfied with that leafy salad.


So, if you’ve gone to bed early and had a good night’s rest, when lunchtime comes around you will still be chock full of brilliant leptin, have the willpower of a Buddhist monk and be far more likely to make a healthy and nutritious choice.


The ‘fat’ hormone


Unlike serotonin and leptin, there’s one hormone we want a lot less of in our bloodstream, that’s ghrelin. Yeah, ghrelin, silly name right? It sounds like one of the hobbits!


Ghrelin, also known as the ‘fat hormone’ is the chemical transmitter that controls our appetite. The more of it flowing around our body the hungerier we are.


Fortunately sleep reduces the levels of ghrelin in our system. So, as long as you’re getting to bed at a sensible time for your body then you should be able to keep the ‘h-angry’ beast at bay.


Metabolic Grogginess


Metabolic what-iness? Metabolic grogginess is a fancy science person way of saying that when the body is sleep deprived it behaves differently to food.


Researchers at the University of Chicago have discovered that our very fat cells respond differently when tired than they do when well-rested. In simplified terms, our fat cells become much less responsive to the messages they receive from insulin.


If any of you know anything about the world of diabetes, then the word insulin has properly peaked your interest. Insulin is another hormone. When insulin is doing its job correctly it tells fat cells when to remove fatty acids and lipids from the bloodstream, when to store them and when to use them as energy. Diabetics either don’t produce enough insulin or have become resistance to its messages.


Metabolic grogginess has a similar effect, some have even referred to is as a pre-diabetic state. A sleep-deprived body is simply less sensitive to insulin – by up to 30%. This means that fat cells are less capable of transforming these fatty acids and lipids into energy.


Instead, this unburnt fat and sugar remains in the bloodstream longer before being stashed away in tissue. Making us fat. Bummer!


So there you go – the secret to keeping your hormones happy and your weight in check is getting enough sleep. So get to bed early tonight, enjoy a great night’s rest, and wake up a happier and lighter person tomorrow.

About The Author

Sally Symonds

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