You've probably heard about the link between sleep and weight: Basically, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to be overweight.
The reason for this isn't totally clear. One proposed reason I've heard is that getting too little sleep leads to the brain releasing more of the stress hormone cortisol, and cortisol promotes fat storage around the waist.
Another theory is that sleep-deprived people are less able to marshal the willpower to turn down sugary or fatty foods, or that exhaustion makes them crave these foods more. A new study provides evidence for this idea: Researchers at St. Luke's - Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York studied 25 normal weight adults on days after they'd slept for just four hours, as well as on days when they'd been allowed to sleep up to nine hours, and did MRI scans of the subjects' brains while they looked at pictures of different foods. When photos of unhealthy foods were shown to sleep-deprived subjects, the researchers observed increased activity in the brains' reward centers.
Isn't it fascinating that not getting enough sleep can leave us more susceptible to unhealthy eating, in such a biological, scientifically verified way? Definitely something to remember the next time the clock reads 11 pm and you're deciding between hitting the hay and sending one more email, or watching one more show on the DVR.
And if you suffer from insomnia, here's one more reason to do whatever you can do get some more sleep: Another recent study found a link between insomnia and hypertension.
Before you pop sleeping pills, consider trying a more natural remedy to see if it brings relief. I've heard good things about melatonin pills, like Usana Pure Rest. (However I have not tried them personally, as insomnia is not among my problems, so far anyway).
More about the sleep and weight connection: