Did you know that getting less than eight hours of sleep per night could actually cause you to gain weight? When the body receives less than eight hours of sleep each night, it experiences sleep deprivation, which affects important hormones that regulate hunger and satiation.
The production of leptin, the hormone that tells the body it is full, is decreased when you don’t get enough sleep, and the production of ghrelin, the hormone that tells the body it is hungry, is increased. So a lack of sleep causes the brain to believe you need more food than you really need, which is why you feel hungry all day after a sleepless night.
But that is not all. You have probably also noticed that you are not only constantly hungry, you are hungry for junk food. Junk food is specially designed to satisfy specific aspects of self-gratification to which we are especially susceptible when fatigued.
The amount of sleep we get each night affects the types of foods we crave. Sleep deprivation affects the body’s cravings for carbohydrates and sweets. Foods that are high in carbs and sugar contain more glucose, which fuels the brain. When we don’t get enough rest, our brains search for ways to get more glucose so it can continue to function, leading the sleep deprived person to reach for a soda and a cookie rather than an apple.
The good news is that there are things you can do to help you sleep better. For starters, you can follow these simple tips for getting better sleep:
- Take a hot shower before bed. Not only is a hot shower or bath relaxing, but the cooling that takes place after a shower actually induces sleep. Our body temperature naturally increases as bed time approaches, preparing us for slumber.
- The three S’s of the bed. Only use the bedroom for three things and three things only- sleep, sex, and sickness. Keep the television, laptop, iPad and iPod out of the room. Train your brain to relax when you are in bed. Also, the LED lights associated with electronic devices is very stimulating to the brain.
- Keep the bedroom dark. The darker the room at night, the more melatonin the body produces. Even the slightest bit of light from an alarm clock or cell phone can interfere with melatonin production. If you need to get up in the middle of the night, use “low blue” lights, which will not interfere with melatonin production.
If lifestyle changes are not enough to ease your body into a full night’s rest, contact a sleep center. You may have a medical condition such as sleep apnea that is interfering with your body’s ability to sleep soundly.