How does sleep affect your diet and food cravings?

May 3, 2016

From March 6th to March 13th, America is celebrating Sleep Awareness Week. That’s why we, at BPI Sports, want to share with you some of the research, studies and correlation surrounding sleep and weight loss.

At BPI Sports, we’re always discussing fitness goals, supplementation, nutrition and overall healthy living. A good night’s rest is part of that healthy equation. So let’s get started and celebrate Happy Sleep Awareness Week!

How many hours of sleep do you need?

So how much sleep do you think you need? Eight hours a night seems to be the general rule of thumb. But sleep needs vary across ages, depending on people’s lifestyle, age and health. For example, newborns need about 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day. Teenagers need around 8 to 10 hours. Adults 24 years of age and more need anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. To determine how many hours of sleep you need, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I productive throughout the day?
  • Do I have any health issues such as being overweight?
  • Do I rely on caffeine/energy drinks to make it through the day?
  • Am I experiencing any sleep problems like nightmares, insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring?

How does your sleep affect your diet?

According to research by Dr. Van Cauter, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites because they’re leptin (appetite regulating hormone) levels fall. Plus, the psychological effects of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar, so if you’re feeling sleepy you may think to hit the fridge instead of the sack. Can you say “easy weight gain?

The Annals of internal Medicine published a study where dieters were placed on various sleeping schedules. When they got adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. But when dieters cut back on sleep, the fat loss was also cut in half even though they were on the same diet as the other group. They felt hungrier, less satisfied after meals and didn’t have the energy to exercise. Overall, the sleep-deprived dieters lost 55% less fat than their well-rested counterparts.

Poor sleep changes fat cells too. The University of Chicago researchers analyzed what happened to people after four days of poor sleep. They called it “metabolic grogginess” which means the body can’t use insulin properly. So how does this relate to weight gain? When insulin functions well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from the blood stream, preventing storage. But when you become more insulin resistant, fats circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually the excess ends up storing fat in all the wrong places. This leads to being overweight and possibly diabetes.

How does sleep affect your food cravings?

So you must know by now that losing weight isn’t all about willpower. In fact, it’s the two hormones called leptin and ghrelin that control your hunger. Leptin is produced in your fat cells, the less you produce the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate your hunger, while also reducing the amount of calories you burn and increasing the amount of fat you store.

When you’re sleep deprived, it’s almost impossible to control these two hormones. According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, sleeping less than six hours a day triggers that area of your brain that increases your need for food, while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin. Also, scientists discovered when you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is the stress hormone that’s associated with fat gain. It gets worst! A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol shut down the areas of your brains that leave you feeling satisfied after a meal, so you’ll still feel hungry even after you just ate.

As you can see, when you’re short on sleep, your body pays the price. So be kind to yourself and keep up with your sleep schedule to reap the benefits.

For more information on National Sleep Awareness Week, please visit

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