How many hours do you sleep a night? Whatever number your answer is, chances are that you need more. Recent U.S national surveys have found that in the past 50 years, there has been a decrease in self-reported sleep by one and a half to two hours. Studies have shown an association between short sleep duration and chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension and obesity.
There is a positive correlation between shortened sleep duration and weight gain. One study even found that getting five or less hours of sleep a night might increase your mortality risk by up to 15%. Sleep deprivation has a direct effect on two important hormones in your body. Ghrelin which stimulates appetite, and leptin which signals to your brain when you become full. If you don’t get the sleep you need, your ghrelin levels increase while your leptin levels decrease. This can increase appetite and decrease satiety (or feeling satisfied), which can result in overeating and weight gain. Sleeping less can also make your brain’s reward centers stay on high alert which can make it hard to say no to comfort foods, usually high-carb snacks. In fact people who do not get enough sleep were found to have increased cravings for unhealthy foods and to snack more after dinner.
Getting an inadequate amount of sleep can trigger an increase in your cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone your body uses to provide the body with glucose or blood sugar. Elevated cortisol over the long term leads to increased blood sugar levels. Sleeping less also makes your body more likely to hold onto fat. One study in particular found that when people cut back on sleep, the amount of weight they lost decreased, and they felt hungrier throughout the day even though their calories remained the same.
Getting adequate, good quality sleep each night is necessary for both your mental and physical health. While you sleep, your brain and body are still working hard. Adequate sleep is important to help your body fight infection, think clearly, support your metabolism and prevent diabetes, as well as enhance your productivity and mental clarity.
So, how do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? You might be suffering from sleep deprivation if you suffer from any of the following:
Fatigue, sleepiness and lack of motivation
Moodiness and irritability
Increased risk of depression
Impaired concentration due to decreased brain activity
Lack of concentration, memory issues, decreased ability to cope with day-to-day stress
Weakened immune system which can result in frequent colds, infection and weight gain
Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
Sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, getting regular exercise, stress management and a consistent bedtime routine can help you get more sleep if you are having trouble falling as well as staying asleep.