While it’s clearly proven that sleep has a major impact on the inner workings of the brain, sleep also has a tremendous impact on your overall health. Not only will missing out on your zz’s leave you feeling sluggish, sleep deprivation can also put you at a much higher risk for chronic diseases including obesity and diabetes.

Sleeping Less & Working More

As some chronic diseases are integrally linked with your body’s hormone production, modern day sleep deprivation is a serious concern. A Medscape.com study entitled, “The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism,”  depicts a significant decrease in how many hours Americans are sleeping.

In 1960, a survey of 1 million people reported a sleeping duration of 8.0-8.9 hours; in the early 2000’s, that number had dropped to 6.9-7.0 hours.

Though those fifty years saw some of the greatest technological, financial, and social advances of our time, as a society, we haven’t prioritized taking care of our most valuable resource- our self! We’re working more, sleeping almost two hours less, and multitasking every minute to complete a never ending list list of tasks and to-dos.

The Effect of Sleep On Your Hormone Production

Ignoring your physical and spiritual needs isn’t wise- especially when your health is at serious risk. According to experts, the production of some hormones increase during sleep while others are restricted. This interruption to your hormonal production can result in chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and other serious health concerns.

In the study, “The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism,” researchers investigate how sleep affects the release of these much-needed hormones:

  1. Leptin: This hormone suppresses appetite by telling the brain that the stomach is full. Intricately tied to sleep, leptin production is halted in the sleep deprived leading to increased caloric intake. When researchers limited the study participants’ sleep to four hours per night for six nights, their caloric intake increased as if they’d been restricted to three days of a 900 cal/day diet- even though their caloric intake had not changed!
  2. Ghrelin: This peptide stimulates appetite. Not only did studies show a marked elevation in ghrelin in the sleep-deprived, but they also observed an increase in participants’ cravings for high carbohydrate foods.
  3. Insulin: This hormone regulates blood sugar levels. When young, healthy subjects underwent six days with only four hours of sleep, researchers uncovered blood glucose levels that suggested “a clinically significant impairment of glucose tolerance.”  In under one week, sleep restriction can cause a prediabetic state even in young and otherwise healthy adults.
  4. Cortisol: This hormone is the primary stress hormone. Not only are high cortisol levels linked to increased belly fat and lowered immune response, elevations of cortisol levels in chronic sleep loss “are likely to promote the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for both obesity and diabetes.”

The Evolutionary Link

In studies of animals who are faced with a food shortage, researchers consistently see decreased sleep durations and noticeable increases in caloric intake. To keep them fueled for long hours of wakefulness, animals’ hormones signal a stronger need for nourishment during times of scarcity.

Similarly, the above, human studies have further shown that the hormones which regulate appetite are closely linked to sleep duration. Therefore, not getting adequate sleep has a direct correlation with an excessive increase in appetite even if we are not experiencing a time of famine!

While society might not prioritize your health and wellness, you can! Take control of your life today and start living with intention to find greater purpose, wellness, and peace.

Are you getting enough shut-eye? Have you sacrificed sleep in the name of your to-do list?