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Does sleep loss equal weight gain?

Are sleepless nights widening your waistline?

Could a lack of sleep be widening your waistline? Medibank Better Health Index data found that those who suffer from sleep disorders have a higher BMI on average than those sleeping soundly.

This link between sleep disorders and weight has been noted in countless studies. And while the exact reasons for why sleep deprivation leads to weight gain are generally inconclusive, a few theories have been explored.

Altering the hunger hormones

Studies have suggested that sleep deprivation may influence the hormones that tell your body when its hungry or full – called ghrelin and leptin – causing an increase in appetite in the day after a poor sleep. What’s more, it’s been suggested that sleep loss may stimulate cravings for higher calorie foods, rich in sugar, salt and fat. Supporting this theory, MBHI data revealed those suffering from sleep disorders actually visited fast food outlets more times on average each month, and ate chocolate and lollies more often, compared to the general population.

Decreasing motivation for exercise

Another theory is that the exhaustion experienced from sleep disorders could simply result in reduced motivation to exercise, in turn leading to weight gain. MBHI data supports this, finding that those with sleep disorders were less likely to exercise than the general population, and exercised fewer times on average in the last 3 months.

Diet, exercise and sleep – a vicious cycle?

It’s clear that a poor night’s sleep can wreak havoc on the body, hindering dietary choices and decreasing motivation for exercise. However, it’s worth considering whether diet and exercise also play a part in prepping the body for a restful night, and if the effects of a sleepless night could in fact create a vicious cycle of poor sleep.

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