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Lose Weight While Sleeping? (Bring it!)

If you told me I could sleep my fat away, first I’d ask you what kind of Kool-Aid you’re drinking, then I’d ask where’s the line I need to stand in to find out more.

Sounds crazy, right?

Well, the bad news is that if you sleep a lot and then stuff yourself with fast food and sugar during the day, you won’t reap the benefits of your slumber. The good news: not only are you burning calories (albeit at a slower rate) while you sleep, you’re allowing your body to recover and reset itself in preparation for the next day.

According to WebMD, researchers have found that the quantity and quality of your sleep may be the driver in the balancing of hormones that are tied to appetite. A great deal of research has been done on the hormones leptin and ghrelin, both of which can play a role in appetite. The amount in which they are produced may also be tied to the amount of sleep we’re getting.

Leptin and ghrelin control feelings of hunger and fullness. Working hand-in-hand, ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates appetite, while leptin is produced in fat cells and signals the brain when you’re full, according to doctors on WebMD. Leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels rise with lack of adequate sleep, doctors say, resulting in a person wanting to eat more in an effort to feel satisfied.

I can tell you from personal experience that when I experience a light night of sleep, my food choices aren’t always the best. It’s easier to grab convenience foods than even think about preparing a healthy, balanced meal.

Studies done at the University of Chicago in Illinois and at Stanford University in California proved the correlation between sleep and appetite. In the Chicago study, 12 healthy men were subjected to two days of sleep deprivation followed by two days of extended sleep. Their hormone levels both decreased (leptin) and increased (ghrelin) on their sleep-restricted days, causing them to crave higher carbohydrate, calorie dense foods by an increase of 45 percent more.

The Stanford study, which was done as part of a joint project with the University of Wisconsin, showed that participants who slept less than eight hours a night had higher levels of body fat in addition to their hormone levels being off. Further, they found a correlation between levels of body fat and amount of sleep: those who slept the fewest hours had the most body fat.

As parents, especially with little ones in the house, getting a full eight hours of sleep sounds like a dream. Sometimes we can help it, sometimes we can’t. When considering the efforts we are making to lose weight, dropping weight isn’t always about making the choice to eat carrots instead of potato chips. Be sure to take a look at your sleep habits, as they may play a role in the food choices you make later that day.


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[author_info]About the Author

 Lori Rypka is the Prime Parents Club Fitness Contributor, a mom of two wonderful kids first, a writer, wife, friend, personal trainer and marathon runner in training second. She enjoys helping others in their personal journeys toward living healthier lives. The biggest tool in her tool box: humor. Who says dieting can’t be fun? You can find Lori at http://www.fumbledintofitness.com/, or on Twitter as @LoriRypka.

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Image: Danilo Rizzuti

Lori Rypka has been certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise since April 2010, and enjoys helping friends find their healthy selves. Follow Lori on her blog at Fumbled Into Fitness.

1 Comment

  1. simon

    July 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Stress is always being associated to quality of sleep which indirectly cause obesity. People tends to eat more the next day when they are not able to sleep well or had insomnia last night, this is all because of the hormone reaction as you mentioned in your write up. Situation become worst when people is trying to take medicine to get into sleep.

    Simon