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How Sleep Affects Our Appetite


By Lydia Carron

Hunger is controlled by more than just what you eat. Hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin (among others) have a role in regulating your appetite. Have you ever noticed, on nights when you don’t get enough sleep, you snack incessantly or can’t seem to satisfy your hunger? That’s due to the hormone’s ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite, making you feel hungrier. Ghrelin is up-regulated or increases when you get insufficient or poor quality sleep. 

Leptin, another appetite-regulating hormone, has been shown to reduce food intake and body weight as well as increasing energy expenditure. Leptin levels also fall when you don’t get enough sleep. Additionally, leptin levels increase during sleep, basically telling your body that you have enough energy for the time being, so there’s no need to signal the feeling of hunger, especially when you won’t be burning energy while you sleep. Willpower often succumbs to your hormonal signals, so this is one among many reasons why it’s so important to get adequate sleep. 

Fun fact: Exercise also decreases levels of ghrelin and increases leptin, which could explain why workouts can sometimes “kill your appetite.”