Tackling overhunger, lesson 4: sleep tight!

Picture of Dr. Jen Kerns

Dr. Jen Kerns

As you know, I am focusing this month on the basics that lead to overeating and overweight: overhunger, overdesire, and emotional eating. I could talk for years on the subject, but instead am sparing you the novel and instead posting bite sized nuggets of information about each of these buckets that I hope you will find helpful.

In my first 3 posts, we touched limiting sugars and refined grains, adding in more protein, and avoiding liquid calories as practical ways to help manage overhunger. Today I want to talk about something a bit different: sleep.

People who don’t sleep well or sleep enough gain weight. One potential mechanism is that there is a decrease in serum leptin levels that occurs in response to inadequate sleep. Leptin is a hormone produced by adipocytes (fat cells) that, when high, signals that the body is well fed, and when low (as naturally occurs when there are few fat stores to produce it), signals that the body is starving and acts to lower satiety and lower energy expenditure. This basically makes you eat more and move less. Not only do leptin levels drop with poor sleep, contributing to overhunger, but acutely inadequate sleep (meaning just a single night of poor sleep) leads to an increase in the potent hunger hormone ghrelin, which is released primarily by the stomach. Researchers not only found these changes in appetite regulating hormones that create overhunger and promote overeating, but also found that participants with an average nightly sleep of 7.7 hours were the thinnest, and participants with less sleep than that had significantly higher BMIs.

I recommend a minimum of 7 hours of good quality sleep every night to help keep hunger at bay. Don’t miss my detailed recommendations on different ways to hack your own sleep to achieve the best quantity and quality you can, and take my quick quiz at the bottom of this post to see whether you might be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea (which MUST be treated if you have it).

Sleep tight! ❤️




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