Scientists are still uncovering the many ways poor quality sleep can impact you, but it certainly is much more than just stumbling your way through the day. For example, a number of studies have reported changes to key hormones levels and recently how many calories your body burns the day after an ‘all-nighter’.
For example, large studies over the course of several years regularly show that decreases in how much you sleep each night can progressively increase your risk of developing obesity and diabetes-related complications [1, 2]. One of the greatest examples of this found that women who sleep less than five hours per night had the highest body weights of women in the study. In comparison, women who slept a normal amount (7 to 8 hours) had what was considered to be a normal body weight .
While many theories exist, a number of studies have reported that being low on sleep increases the level of ghrelin, particularly in the early morning hours [3, 4]. Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced mostly in our stomach and when produced, it signals our body to be hungry while also decreasing how many calories are burned by the body . Scientists feel like these increases are some of the first cues by the body to help compensate for the lack of sleep and stress placed on the body as a result of the low levels of sleep.
Whether it’s related or not to the changes in ghrelin, studies which have imposed short-term decreases in sleep have that the total amount of food consumed over a 24-hour period was increased, particularly foods considered to be snack foods or which could be characterized as calorically dense or on the flip side, lacking nutrient density [6-8].
In addition, studies have also shown that when the body is sleep deprived, natural levels of physical activity (which will burn calories and help maintain a favorable balance) are decreased . Makes sense right? I know when I’m exhausted, I tend to not move around as much, but when considered as a whole, these changes all lead to a greater positive balance (you’re eating more calories, and burning less calories) of calories which over time will increase body mass and levels of obesity.
Recently, a study reported that just one night of complete sleep deprivation decreases energy expenditure by 5% at rest, but this decrease was 4x greater after a meal was consumed resulting in a 20% reduction in the amount of calories being burned by the body . Sure, I’ll be the first to point out that going without any sleep or only getting four to five hours of sleep each night can make a huge difference. In fact, one study that used middle-aged men and women had them only get four hours of sleep per night every night for fourteen days and found no change in energy expenditure (i.e., calorie burning by the body). This doesn’t mean that the outcomes from these studies aren’t important.
There are pretty consistent findings that going without adequate sleep is a surefire way to get your body out of whack and off-kilter. Putting on pounds of muscle or losing fat can be challenging enough… depriving yourself of quality sleep will make it even more challenging. If you want to set your body up for earning the best results possible, making quality sleep a priority in your life is a great place to start. You might be asking yourself, “what can you start doing today to increase your sleep quality?”
All in all, sleep is an important aspect of your life to allow your body to work effectively. Whether it’s decreasing how many calories are burned by your body, increases in hormones that cause you to eat more food or less healthy foods in general, the impact of crappy sleep rears its ugly head in many directions. Considering that all of these studies were done in the context of no exercise, one can only imagine how these changes are influenced when the stress of regular exercise and the demand for recovery is added to the mix. Now grab a shake and get to bed!
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