Even if you’re eating a healthy diet, there's one major factor that could derail your best efforts to become lean and healthy: not getting sufficient sleep.
Unfortunately, we live in an overcaffeinated, sleep-deprived nation. Currently, statistics show that as many as 70 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Back in the 1940s, just 11 percent of people slept less than six hours a night. Today, more than 40 percent do.
Not only are we sleeping less, but it also seems we're getting poorer-quality sleep.
And the consequences are showing up around our waistlines: One study concluded that a single night of sleep deprivation could increase your hunger hormone ghrelin. Another found that when you don't sleep well, you have decreased amounts of leptin, the hormone that tells you to stop eating.
Plus, sleep loss also ramps up stress, keeping your stress hormone cortisol cranked up past its prime. And one study concluded that sleep deprivation elevated cortisol levels the next evening, when it should be lowest.
A substantial number of studies also connect insulin resistance with insufficient sleep. One found that getting five hours of sleep per night for a week significantly reduces insulin sensitivity. Another concluded that chronic sleep loss is a novel risk factor for weight gain, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
These effects are cumulative but also immediate. In fact, researchers discovered that in healthy subjects, just one single partial night of sleep deprivation could create insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways.
The aftermath of these and other out-of-whack hormones play out all too familiarly. You wake up sleep-deprived, hungry, and cranky, so you drive to your favorite coffee shop for a gigantic dark roast and maybe a sugary breakfast pastry that simply fuels those out-of-whack hormones.
“Wired and tired” is often the feeling patients describe when these and other hormones become out of balance, creating a vicious cycle of hunger, cravings, and more sleep deprivation.