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Your Body Mass Index and Sleep

By Randi Morse 

I'm like a lot of people struggling to lose weight. I want to lose weight to make my clothes fit better, I want to lose weight to be healthier, and I want to lose weight to feel better. But losing weight is hard. Changing your diet, adjusting your exercise routine -- none of it is easy. What may surprise you is that the amount of sleep that you're getting may be affecting your weight. 

Sleep and Obesity 

There have been several studies that has linked bad sleep to a higher body mass index (BMI). One extremely interesting study followed 60,000 nurses for more than 16 years. All these nurses were thin or average weight at the beginning of the study. Fast forward 16 years later and they discovered that the nurses who got 5 hours of sleep a night or less were 15 percent more likely to be obese. Another review found that lack of sleep increased the risk of obesity by 55 percent. But why will lack of sleep make you more likely to gain weight? 

Your Appetite 

It helps if you think of your body as a computer system. Your brain is the main processing center. The brain sends signals to the body to give it the information it needs. For example, when you eat and have had enough nutrition your brain sends a message to your body that you are full, which stops you from feeling hungry. There are two hormones called the "hunger hormones," ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells the brain that you're hungry, leptin tells the brain that you're full. Research has shown that if you're not getting enough sleep your body doesn't make as much leptin as it needs and produces more ghrelin, which causes you to feel hungrier more often. 


Another reason lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight is due to cravings. The front of your brain, the frontal lobe, is where logic and reason are stored. For example, if you attempted to get in a barrel and get tossed over Niagara Falls, your frontal lobe would tell the rest of your brain that it wasn't a very good idea. When you don't get enough sleep the frontal lobe of your brain has a much more difficult time functioning properly. This means that it will be much more difficult to avoid that last piece of chocolate cake in the refrigerator. 

Adjusting your bedtime can be difficult, but if you move your bedtime up 10 minutes a day you'll find that you're able to get 7 hours of sleep a night, which can help you achieve your weight loss goals. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Bothell, Wash.

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