How your sleep is changing your weight - and vice versa

Have you been feeling tired a lot lately during the day, or struggling to get proper sleep at night?

Are you having trouble losing weight?

These problems could be very closely connected.

Several recent studies have shed new light on the links between tiredness, sleep levels and weight. And it turns out that fixing one of these issues could be the key to fixing the others.

One such study, published in the SLEEP Journal, has revealed that obesity could be affecting sleepiness during the day.

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Those who are obese are more tired during the day and less likely to get a good night’s rest.

Another sleep study suggested that the inverse is also true: those who sleep poorly are more likely to have trouble with obesity.

Dr Siobhan Banks from the Sleep Health Foundation told the ABC that while the science is not clear cut, “a fair amount of literature does signal that if you have less sleep … you’re at higher risk of being overweight or obese”.

“We do know that some of the appetite-regulating hormones seem to be affected,” she said.

“The results are a little bit different depending on the study. But also what seems to be consistently found is that glucose metabolism is … impaired with sleep deprivation.”

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When the body needs more sleep, it doesn’t metabolise glucose as well as it should. This can mean high blood sugar levels, and in turn, increased fat stores.

The sleep-deprived are also less likely to make good dietary choices.

“What most people want is something warm and comforting [and] probably fairly high in carbohydrates … so we see that people’s resolve to eat well is a little bit poorer when they’re sleep deprived,” said Dr Banks.

“It’s like the very beginning of the thin edge of a wedge… If you’re sleep deprived, your body just isn’t quite coping as it should. So when you then put on top of that the likelihood that you’re going to eat naughty foods … those things mixed together can lead to either higher circulating glucose levels, so you’re more likely to put on fat, or your body becoming desensitised to those increased hormones, which then can lead to type 2 diabetes.”

Thankfully, if you address these problems before a chronic condition forms, there is every chance you can turn your health around.

“What we do see is that once you get good sleep again, then these effects reverse,” said Dr Banks.

Do you feel like you get enough sleep? Or do you struggle with tiredness? And have you ever found this affecting your dietary choices?