Is your body just asking for you to hit the snooze button each day, or maybe you’re never feeling like you’re fully rested? It might be time to consider sleeping in a couple days over working out if we are truly sleep deprived. Here’s the low-down on how sleep could be affecting your body composition.

We’ve all been told before “we need at least 8 hours of sleep”, but many of us continue to fight that uphill battle for one of a few several reasons. Many of us are parents, and if parents of younger children, can be difficult to get a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep. Some of us work odd hours–first responders, nurses, and other shift workers–which make our sleep patterns irregular or constantly changing each week. Sometimes we think that if we sacrifice a few hours of sleep, we can get more done, which can sometimes be effective, but not so much for the long run.

Two hormones that respond to our daily sleep patterns and habits can tell us a little bit more about why getting an extra hour or so of sleep might be worth it, especially if we’re getting less than 6-7 per night: leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is a hormone that is produced in fat cells and is released to help control our hunger cues, and make us feel full. When we are asleep, leptin levels are high. Leptin levels are at the lowest in the middle of the day, with regular sleep patterns. However, if we are sleep deprived, we often may wake up in the middle of the night, or in the morning–quite hungry.

A sleep study from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort studied 1000 individuals, and compared those who received 5 hours of sleep per night versus 8 hours of sleep per night. Overall, sleep deprived individuals had lower levels of leptin by 15.5 percent, and higher levels of ghrelin by 14.9 percent, and an increased BMI (body mass index).

Ghrelin is a hormone created in the stomach and small intestine and makes us feel hungry. Sleep deprived individuals will have higher levels of ghrelin, which could also be a result of not getting adequate sleep over time.

While these two hormones are a glimpse as to how sleep can impact our bodies and their body composition, there are other factors that can also come into play such as insulin resistance; many individuals who lack quality sleep may experience more insulin resistance, which makes it harder for the body to break down sugars as they are consumed. This is also often a risk factor and early sign of diabetes.

So the next time you’re thinking if it’s worth it to sleep in the extra hour, take a look at your week’s sleep log and see if you’ve reached adequate sleep over the past few days. If your body is begging for you to hit snooze, it sometimes gives us those signs and we should honor them. Feel good about where you’re at with your sleep? Then absolutely get to the gym and hit those workouts strong! Among exercise and nutrition, adequate sleep is also a big part in ample recovery and overall wellness.

Study summary from “The Science of Sleep” by Athlon Publications, Special Edition #41

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