For all of the night owls out there, I’m notifying you that skipping all of that sleep could be affecting to your waistline. With everyone’s busy professional and social lives, sleep is too often put on the back burner, but it may be more than just weight gain we have to worry about when neglecting our beauty rest.
A study done in the UK discovered a strong connection between only getting about 4-6 hours of sleep per night and negative health effects. This included higher body mass index as well as higher waist circumference which is a measure of how much inflammatory fat you have surrounding your organs. Waist circumference along with other factors such as blood lipids and fasting blood glucose are all criteria for metabolic syndrome. It was found that these criteria were much higher in those that got 4-6 hours of sleep compared to those who got up to 9 hours of sleep at night, with waist circumference being 1-2 inches higher in the non-sleepers. Additionally, CRP (C-reactive protein), a marker of acute and chronic inflammation, was also found to be higher in those who didn’t get enough sleep. Finally, the study recommends those who are genetically predisposed to obesity to be particularly careful about getting enough sleep.
Another study found that those who slept less than 5 hours had increased blood levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and this increase could occur with even just a single night of sleep deprivation. These subjects reported more significant perceived hunger compared to those who slept more than 7 hours. Researchers also reported that ghrelin may not be the only culprit of increased hunger following insufficient sleep. Central nervous glucose utilization has been proven to be higher during wakefulness. Basically, the longer the brain is awake, the more fuel it demands, causing hunger. Sleep deprivation also led people to be more tired throughout the day and therefore less likely to exercise as well.
The bottom line? Not only can lack of sleep increase your belly fat, but also it can put you at risk for chronic diseases even at a healthy weight. Having metabolic syndrome isn’t just about weight, it’s an unfavorable state of overall health, metabolism and chronic inflammation. So, making sure to get at least 7-8 consecutive hours of sleep each night is a good goal to have to keep your hunger hormones, and your health, in check.