Sleep Well, Hunger Less

Sleep is associated with appetite and possibly higher risk for obesity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you're feeling hungrier than usual, take a look at your sleeping habits - are you getting enough sleep? If not, that may be the reason for the extra appetite.

A new study from Sweden has shown that a person's appetite is enhanced when they're looking at pictures of food if they haven't had enough sleep, possibly pointing to poor sleep as a risk factor for obesity.

"Get enough sleep to help manage your hunger and weight."

A Swedish team of researchers, led by Christian Benedict and Samantha Brooks from the Departments of Neuroscience at Uppsala University in Sweden, gave twelve men MRI scans to study their brains while the men looked at pictures of food.

They found more activity in the appetite center of the brain when they men had not slept at all compared to a night with a normal amount of sleep.

"Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people's risk to gain weight in the long run," Benedict said. "It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight."

In previous research, Benedict and a colleague that one night without sleep reduced men's energy expenditure the next day but increased their hunger.

"Sleep is very important in homeostasis and energy balance, and lack of sleep adjusts the hormonal excretions in our body," said Dr. William Kohler, Director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Spring Hill, Florida.

He said that two primary hormones regulate our sense of hunger: leptin decreases our appetite, and gherkin, secreted by the stomach, increases the appetite.

"These hormones get out of balance when we don't get enough sleep," he said. "Lack of sleep decreases the effectiveness of leptin."

Kohler said previous research have shown a high correlation between obesity in children and lack of sleep when they were infants and toddlers, so Benedict's study adds to our understanding of the impact of sleep deprivation.

"This study is further confirmation of the effect of sleep - or the lack thereof - on our appetite and our metabolism," Kohler said.

The study was published online January 18 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and will appear in an upcoming issue. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

The research was funded primarily by the Swedish Research Council with additional support from the Tore Nilsons Foundation for Medical Research, Ingrid Thurings Foundation for Medical Research, Åke Wibergs Foundation, Brain Research Foundation, Novo Nordisk, Gunvor och Josef Anérs Foundation, Stiftelsen Olle Engkvist Byggmästare, and the Åhlens Foundation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 23, 2012
Last Updated:
January 23, 2012