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Sleeping well helps you eat well
Sleep has a major impact on our health and quality of life. We need between seven and nine hours of good sleep every night in order for our body and brain to rest and recover. Less than that and our ability to concentrate may suffer, our immune system may weaken, and we end up eating more food – and often more unhealthy food – than we need to.
One scientific study has shown that short-sleepers – people who sleep less than seven hours per day – tend to eat 300 more calories per day than people who get enough sleep. This is because they are drawn to foods with higher levels of saturated fat, like fast food, cheese and processed meats. Over a long period of time this daily increase is enough to raise the risk of obesity.
How poor sleep affects appetite
Some of the differences between well-rested and sleep-deprived people can be seen in their bodies' hormone levels. Hormones act like messengers and help regulate many of our bodily functions, including our appetite. Scientists found that people who get less than five hours of sleep a night show increased levels of the hormone ghrelin and decreased levels of hormone leptin.
Ghrelin is known as ‘the hunger hormone’ and increases our appetite by telling our brain that it is time to eat. Leptin, on the other hand, makes us stop eating by telling our brain that we are full. Because of the change in the levels of these two hormones, we experience increased hunger and appetite. This can lead to weight gain.
The same hormonal change can occur if our body clock is disrupted. This can happen if you don’t keep a regular sleeping pattern, if you work night shifts, or if you are exposed to light at night. Research has shown that these factors can also make people more at risk of developing obesity.
Simple steps for better sleep
Good sleeping habits can help us to make healthy choices and improve our ability to resist tempting foods. Some simple steps are to have a regular time for going to bed and waking up, and to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. To find out more, take a look at our full list of tips in the Support and Tools section.