More and more research is showing the link between how much people sleep and their weight. The role of sleep related to nutrition is significant! Sleep can have a tremendous impact on our food choices each day, either increasing or decreasing the likelihood that we will make good choices or get enough physical activity. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to weigh more than those who do get enough sleep each night.
There are a few ways that sleep, or lack of, can relate to weight gain. For example:
- Sleep deprived people may not have enough energy to exercise. The less you sleep, the greater the sleep debt you accumulate, the more fatigued you will experience throughout the day making work and exercise a greater challenge.
- Less sleep means more hours spent awake which can mean more opportunity to eat, especially for those who aren’t getting enough sleep because of stress, work or family obligations, etc. For many, stress is often a trigger for people to reach for unhealthy items or overeat.
- Lack of sleep disrupts hormones that control appetite causing some people to eat more than they otherwise would have if they were well rested. The release of growth hormone is related in part to repair processes that occur during sleep. Cortisol, a hormone affected by sleep, increases in relation to sleep deprivation. An increase in cortisol levels wrecks havoc on your body by stimulating abdominal fat formation, decreasing muscle mass, increasing sleep disruptions and impairing cognitive performance.
- Fatigue decreases willpower, and for some, lack of willpower can lead to poor food choices or overeating.
How much sleep do you need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation adults (18+ years) need 7-9 hours per night. There is “no magic number” because your sleep results from two different factors that researchers are learning about: a person’s basal sleep need – the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance – and sleep debt, the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes. 2 Therefore, trial and error will be the best way to determine how much sleep is ideal for you.