The Matt Walker Podcast

#15: Sleep & Weight Gain – Part 1

February 14, 2022 Dr. Matt Walker Episode 15
The Matt Walker Podcast
#15: Sleep & Weight Gain – Part 1
Show Notes

Matt kicks off a two-part series all about sleep, eating, and weight gain. 

He starts by introducing two appetite-regulating hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Matt explains how leptin sends a signal of fullness, to your brain. When leptin levels are high, your appetite is reduced, and you feel satisfied by the food you eat. Ghrelin does the exact opposite. It revs up your hunger, so when your ghrelin levels are high, you don’t feel satisfied by the food you ate, so you want to eat more.

Matt tells us that when you’re not getting enough sleep, the levels of these two hormones are affected in unfortunate ways, causing you to feel less full and more hungry. Specifically, sleep loss decreases leptin levels by 18%, yet increases ghrelin levels by 28%!

So when you are not getting enough sleep, the body losses the fullness signal AND suffers an increase in hunger levels. The combined consequences? Your appetite rockets up!

It’s also been discovered that levels of endocannabinoids --a class of cannabinoids we naturally produce ourselves -- increase sharply in response to a lack of sleep. As a result,  your hunger levels increase even more (as you may know, cannabinoids are part of the reasons that cannabis gives you the munchies).

Adding up all of these effects, Matt describes how this lack of sleep causes people to consistently overeat. Usually somewhere between 250 to 400 extra calories each and every day!

Snacking also becomes a problem. For example, if you present a group of people with a large meal of over 1,000 calories, then give them the option to keep snacking,  under-slept individuals will continue to snack, consuming an additional 200 to 300 calories relative to those who’ve been getting a full eight hours of sleep.

This all begs the question: is there a reason why your hunger goes into overdrive when you are under-slept? Matt explains one plausible theory from an evolutionary perspective, based on the fact that when animals are in a starvation state, the brain keeps them awake longer so they can forage further. Therefore, when the brain doesn’t get enough sleep, it thinks we may be in a state of starvation and increases our desire for food.

Finally, notes what's coming in part two:  that insufficient sleep not only increases how much you eat but changes your food preferences, and changes how your bodies deposit the extra calories we take on as our hunger increases, relevant to body fat accumulation.

Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.

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