Sleep and Fat Loss Buzz Words...Simply Speaking

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You may have heard of the hormones seratonin, leptin, ghrelin and tryptophan. But did you know they play an important part in regulating our sleep and weight? This article will explain how these hormones work together to influence our sleep and weight, and how a lack of sleep can impact on their function.
Did you know that when we sleep better we stand a better chance of keeping the weight off – even if we’ve consume more calories?  So simply speaking:
Eat less + sleep less = more weight gain
Eat more + sleep more = less weight gain
To understand the relationship between weight loss and sleep we need to consider a number of factors.  Scientists are yet to understand exactly how different hormones and chemical exchanges interact to impact weight loss, but a large body of evidence now exists which supports the fact that sleep is critical component of a fat loss programme.
In a study of more than 68, 000 women at Case Western Reserve University it was established that although they consumed less calories, women who slept less than 5 hours a night gained more weight over time than those who slept 7 hours a night. This can be explained by two important hormones at play which constantly work in harmony to influence our appetite for food.
Leptin and ghrelin – influencing your appetite
The two hormones leptin and ghrelin work together to control our feelings of hunger and fullness.
Leptin is produced in our fat cells. It is released into our bloodstreams to signal sufficient fat stores, and will send a signal to our brain when we are full to tell us to stop eating. It is therefore a natural appetite suppressor.  When we are not getting enough sleep, leptin levels drop, and this messaging system is not as efficient.  We don’t feel as satisfied after we eat and are more likely to overeat.
The stomach releases ghrelin when it is empty to stimulate our appetite. Ghrelin sends a message to our brains telling us we are hungry.  A lack of sleep causes ghrelin levels to rise, which in turn makes us feel hungrier.
So, when we are sleep deprived we are more likely to feel hungry AND less likely to feel satisfied after eating. This messaging system to our brains becomes less efficient and out of balance.
Serotonin and melatonin – influencing your sleep cycle
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that relays information to different parts of the brain. It plays a part in most brain functions, such as mood, sexual function and sleep cycles.
Serotonin levels are highest in the brain when we are awake and active, and almost completely absent when we enter REM sleep. During sleep the body's level of melatonin rises dramatically. While light increases the production of serotonin, darkness spurs on the synthesis of melatonin. Paired together, these two neurotransmitters are key in maintaining the sleep cycle as they work in unison to achieve balance.
Anything that disrupts the rhythm of serotonin and melatonin production will disturb the natural sleep cycle and also therefore impact on weight loss.
What about tryptophan?
You will have heard that foods rich in tryptophan can help you sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps you sleep because when it is broken down it produces serotonin (makes you feel good) and melatonin (makes you sleepy).  It is found in milk, yoghurt, fish, red meat, poultry and eggs, so it’s a good idea to include a healthy dose of these foods in your diet along with a large dose of fresh vegetables and fruit. Sadly, although chocolate contains tryptophan it also contains caffeine and a high dose of unhealthy fat. So whilst we would agree that everything is good in moderation, if it’s fat you are trying to lose, the chocolate probably has to go too!
To conclude, it’s possible to eat more and still lose weight if our sleep patterns are healthy, and leptin and ghrelin are working in harmony to send the correct messages to our brains.  Serotonin and melatonin levels can also influence weight loss, and a healthy, balanced diet and good sleep habits can have a dramatic influence on the levels of these hormones in our bodies. Foods rich in tryptophan are known to promote healthy sleep as they promote healthy, balanced hormones, which in turn promotes sleep, which helps us to lose more fat!