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Lack of Sleep can Pack on the Pounds

By Peter Kilpton

It is a fact that Americans and people around the world are sleeping less than they did just a decade ago. In fact, the trend seems to be getting worse. While most of us know that sleep deprivation can rob us of concentration and make us cranky, most do not realize that it can actually lead to weight gain.

The balance of your hormones affects your weight. The most prevalent hormones that affect weight are two that stimulate and control your appetite. The Ghrelin hormone is pumping through your body when you feel hungry. The leptin hormone tells you that you are full and don't require additional food.

When you don't sleep enough your ghrelin and leptin hormones are out of balance. They don't function properly. Lack of sleep causes the levels of the ghrelin hormone to increase in your system. This causes you to feel hungry to a much greater extent.

Not only do you feel hungrier when you do not get enough sleep, it takes more to make you feel satiated because the amount of leptin in your system decreases. Also, research has shown that the more sleep deprived you are, the worse things are as far as weight gain is concerned.

If the production of ghrelin and leptin aren't convincing, then consider this: there is a correlation between obesity and sleep deprivation according to researchers at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin. According to polls, 63% of Americans declare that they are not getting a full 8 hours of sleep every night. Amazingly, 65% of Americans are considered overweight or obese (Source: usatoday.com, 12/06/2004). Coincidence? Perhaps.

One would surmise that when you are awake you burn more calories. While it is true that an increased level of physical activity will burn more calories, staying up longer won't necessarily burn more calories. The reason is that when you stay up longer you tend to grab the nearest bag of pretzels, chips, and cookies to satisfy your unending hunger. More calories in means more pounds on your waistline. So you are better off sleeping.

Sleeping is a better option also because we burn 60-65% of all calories while we are getting shut eye. Since the smaller amount of calories are burned while awake, we should get to bed. Note: There are exceptions to this rule of course, such as when exercising.

No, most of us do not believe that sleep deprivation has anything to do with our weight. But, with the majority of Americans overweight and with a growing amount of research illustrating the link between obesity and sleep deprivation, people should start making shut eye a priority.

It is very possible that the reason why so many of us fail with our New Year's Resolutions to lose weight is because we continue to not get enough sleep night after night. If you are having trouble seeing results from your diet, ask yourself if you are getting enough sleep and find a way to get more. You will not only feel more refreshed, you may also feel slimmer in the process!

Peter Kilpton is the editor of Regarding Sleep.

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