Two recently published studies from the University of Chicago and Stanford University demonstrated the relationship between a lack of sleep and the increased risk of weight gain and obesity. Sleep deprivation seems to affect the body’s levels of metabolic hormones linked to appetite and eating behaviors. In subjects who slept less than five hours a night, the studies showed a significant decrease in leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite and is responsible for telling your brain when you have had enough food; and a significant increase in gherlin, the hormone that triggers hunger.

Additionally, a Columbia University analysis of patient data from 18,000 medical records found that people who slept less than four hours per night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who slept for seven to nine hours.

Researchers also found that people tend to replace reduced sleep with added calories. The subjects of the study ate more sweet and starchy foods, like cookies and candy, when they were sleep-deprived. Although the reason for shifts in food choices is not fully understood, researchers believe that because the brain is fueled by glucose it tends to seek simple carbohydrates when distressed by lack of sleep.

Undoubtedly, sleep is an essential component to obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight. These results support the theory that when you are sleep-deprived, you are less able to make clear decisions and will tend to eat more food than your body actually needs.

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