The surprising way sleep is changing your waistline. Are you affected?

Can a good night’s sleep make us eat better the next day? Can a bad sleep lead to a bad diet?

According to the latest studies, the way we sleep and the way we eat may be far more closely connected than once thought.

It comes down to two hormones: one which suppresses our appetite, another which encourages it.

Leptin is the hormone your fat releases when the body has eaten enough to get the energy it needs. It controls how much we eat by sending a signal to the brain when it’s time to stop feeling hungry.

One important study shows that the less sleep you have, the less reliable this hormone will be. At worst, it will convince your brain it’s still starving when you should be feeling pleasantly full.

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Ghrelin has the opposite effect to leptin: it stimulates the appetite and urges us to eat more. Just a single bad night’s sleep can release more of it the next day, compelling you to eat unnecessarily.

To add insult to injury, excess ghrelin will force the body to hold on to its fat for longer, effectively sabotaging your diet and exercise efforts.

It won’t actually stop you losing weight, but it will stop you losing fat. Rather cruelly, this could leave fattier areas the body are more obvious and pronounced.

It’s important to recognise when the brain is acting against our own interests; understanding an unhealthy impulse is one of the first key steps in learning to recognise and suppress it.

Unfortunately, it can be much harder to show self-control over these impulses when tired. Add to this our tendency to feel weak or depressed when tired, and we’re ultimately left a lot more vulnerable.

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It’s not just a one-way street, either. As any coffee drinker can attest, what we eat and drink can go a long way in shaping the following night’s sleep. For more information, see Starts at 60’s guide on foods that can give you a better night’s sleep (and stop snoring).

Plenty of members of the Starts at 60 community struggle with regular, healthy sleep. As always, we strongly recommend seeing a doctor, as many causes of sleep deprivation are treatable. You can also read some helpful suggestions from fellow readers here.

Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like your appetite is affected?