Losing sleep and struggling with weight loss? Research reveals the two may be interconnected.

In an interview to USA Today Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago who has spent 15 years studying the topic, said there is no doubt that insufficient sleep promotes hunger and appetite, which can cause excessive food intake resulting in weight gain. Some studies have shown that sleep-deprived people can consume up to 300 calories more a day than when they are well-rested.

Why it happens
Lack of sleep increases ghrelin (hunger hormone) and lowers leptin (satiety) among other hormonal imbalances, which in turn can lead to overeating and weight gain. Other research shows sleep deprivation impacts the fat cells ability to respond properly to insulin, which is essential to regulate energy storage and use. Too little sleep also activates a small part of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls appetite.

Lack of sleep increases ghrelin (hunger hormone) and lowers leptin (satiety) among other hormonal imbalances, which in turn can lead to overeating and weight gain. Other research shows sleep deprivation impacts the fat cells ability to respond properly to insulin, which is essential to regulate energy storage and use. Too little sleep also activates a small part of the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls appetite.

Dr Kenneth P Wright Jr, director of the sleep and chronobiology lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says that people make poor dietary choices (choose carbs and fatty foods) and eat more than they need to when fatigued because of adenosine build up.

Adenosine is a metabolic byproduct that disrupts neural function and promotes sleepiness. It is cleared from the system when we sleep; one of the ways that caffeine makes you feel alert is by blocking adenosine. In a sleep deprived person, adenosine blurs communication between networks in the brain.

How much sleep should you get
It varies, but most young adults are advised seven to nine hours a night; as people age, the need for sleep decreases to about seven to eight hours a night.

Calculate your sleep requirement
When you’re on holiday, sleep at your usual time, but don’t use an alarm to wake up. You may sleep in the first few days to pay your “sleep debt” but once your rhythm has stabilized, record how much you sleep plus or minus 15 minutes. That is how much sleep you need.

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