You have probably heard it multiple times - lack of sleep causes weight gain, but is it really true? My husband sleeps terribly and I tell him all the time, but I don’t think he really believes me. Well, now I have proof!
Some of you may have heard of Ghrelin and Leptin; they were all over the news for a while. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone and leptin is the satiety hormone. So basically, when your body secretes ghrelin, you feel hungry and when it secretes leptin, you feel full. We want less ghrelin and more leptin, right?
Well, I’m sorry to tell you that lack of sleep can boost ghrelin levels (making you feel hungry) and drops leptin, so you don’t feel satisfied, and unfortunately, with all of the stress most of us are under on a daily basis, we’re probably not getting much sleep at night (click here for my article on stress and weight gain). This lack of sleep can cause our hormones to be out of control, in the wrong direction!
We also have the endocannabinoid system. This is relatively new research, so there's not much about it yet (as of this writing), but it's basically like it sounds – it affects the same system as the one that gives you the munchies when you smoke pot. It was found that lack of sleep caused a boost in endocannabinoid levels, causing hedonic, or pleasure, eating. Basically, you grab comfort food, like chips and donuts, with decreased resistance to chow down on them.
To make matters worse, a more recent study found that this same system plays a role in your olfactory system, the one that is connected to what you smell, shifting food choices towards – you guessed it, high calorie, high-fat foods.
Does this sound like you? Now you know why you may be reaching for that junk food! If you had a rough night, detour far away from Cinnabon; you may not be able to resist the smell wafting from it!
No fear, there’s a way around this, not a miracle cure, but it will help. It has to do with what you are putting in your mouth.
It comes down to my philosophy of eating whole foods as much as possible. Increasing your fiber intake by consuming foods like whole grains, beans and lots of veggies will help boost leptin. While you are at it, lowering intake of those white flours and white sugar will also help because processed grains and sugars mess around with your insulin "system," which in turn messes with the positive effects of leptin that you want.
Lowering triglycerides, a type of fat, will also help to boost leptin, and you do this by eating as I told you – lots of veggies, whole grains, cutting out the sugars (especially those sugary drinks), and consuming healthy fats, like avocado or olives and their oils, as well as nuts and seeds.
I extremely simplified this process here, but hopefully, you get my drift. If you would like to know what I stock up in my pantry, click here for my shopping list. The key takeaway is to stay away from the white stuff and stick to the colorful and brown stuff (whole grains, that is!). If you aren’t sure what the hell to do with whole grains and colorful foods, click here for some recipes that I love!
A Single Night of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels and Feelings of Hunger in Normal-Weight Healthy Men: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18564298/
Sleep Restriction Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26612385/
Olifactory Connectivity Mediates Sleep-Dependent Food Choices in Humans: https://elifesciences.org/articles/49053