Sleep Series Part 2: Sleep for Less Hunger

Weight Loss & Nutrition

About PJ

It’s a satisfying feeling to be part of a team that has such a positive impact on people’s lives. I graduated from Health and Sports Science in 2004 as an Exercise Physiologist. It’s my job at Ignite to do whatever I can to ensure our clients are using Ignite and getting the great results that everyone wants.

Not getting enough sleep can make you feel hungrier in between meals and can make you more likely to overeat when you are eating.  Sleep less, feel hungrier, feel less satiated, therefor eat more. The ramifications of this for both the fat loss aspirant and any of us serious about sustaining optimal health are clear.

For about as long as I can remember I’ve had days where I feel hungrier than others. I call them ‘hungry days’. I used to find them mysterious. ‘I’ve had the same breakfast as yesterday morning yet today I’m starving at 8am and yesterday I went through to lunch without even thinking about food, what gives’. I still have these ‘hungry days’ from time to time, though they are not as mysterious to me now having learnt more about different regulators of hunger. Now, on a ‘hungry day’ one of the first things I think to myself is, how did I sleep last night?

How does sleep, or lack of sleep, affect our hunger and feelings of fullness?

It does so by effecting the quantities of hormones that signal feelings of hunger and fullness. It has a particular effect on two hormones which I’d like to talk about today Ghrelin and Leptin.

Ghrelin: This hormone is release by the stomach and pancreas and makes us feel hungry. When we get inadequate sleep, ghrelin levels increase, thus increasing hunger.

Leptin: This hormone is release by our fat cells to tell us when we’re full and to stop eating. When we get inadequate sleep this hormone is decreased. Thus, reducing the signaling for fullness and to stop eating.

The combination of these two actions, increased hunger signaling and decreased fullness signaling is a pathway to weight gain.

This relationship was shown in the study titled ‘Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index‘.

A university of Chicago study titled Brief Communication: Sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, and increased hunger and appetite showed the same relationship between ghrelin, leptin and hunger. The authors also noted that the subjects of the study in a sleep deprived stat experienced increased hunger and appetite “especially for calorie-dense foods with high carbohydrate content“.

This relationship provides a potential mechanism for the fact that ‘There is a very high prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in obese individuals and a high prevalence of obesity in patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea‘.

The Bottom Line:

One of the real take homes for me with all of this, particularly as I work with lots of people who want to drop body fat, is that many people feel they need to rely on will power to eat less, or to not over eat. Wouldn’t it be that much easier if your hormones and physiology were working with you and not against you to do this. No amount of self-discipline or will power will win out in the long term against your physiological urges to eat, and your physiological signaling of when you’re full. If you want to drop body fat in the long term, get your physiology on your side to and make sleep a priority. Part 1 of this series is a good starting point to improving your sleep!