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How Are Sleep And Appetite Related?

Last updated April 23, 2016

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

A 2004 study at the University of Chicago showed that those who were restricted to 4 hours of sleep for a week had an average of 19% lower leptin levels than those who had 12 hours of sleep.

You may not be aware of the substantial impact sleep can have on your appetite. During a period of a rising prevalence of obesity and diabetes, sleep durations are significantly decreasing over time, suggesting a possible relationship between restricted sleep and appetite problems and weight gain. This trend has inspired research to find just how much sleep can affect the hormonal systems involved with hunger.

Appetite is controlled by two opposing hormones, one that is appetite stimulating and one that is appetite inhibiting. The hormone leptin is appetite inhibiting and promotes a feeling of satiety. Ghrelin is appetite stimulating and increases food intake and appetite. Although these two hormones exert opposite effects, they are both regulated during sleep under normal circumstances.

Research has demonstrated the effect sleep deprivation has on leptin levels. A 2004 study at the University of Chicago showed that those who were restricted to 4 hours of sleep for a week had an average of 19% lower leptin levels than those who had 12 hours of sleep. Subsequent studies were conducted to evaluate sleep deprivation’s effect on gherlin levels, hunger, and appetite.

Another study conducted at the University of Chicago in 2004 showed that ghrelin levels were 28% higher in those who were restricted sleep to 4 hours than those who had sleep extension, or 10 hours of sleep. Those who were in the restricted sleep condition also experienced a heightened appetite for carbohydrate rich foods. These results led to the conclusion that the changes in the hormones leptin and ghrelin are responsible for an increase in appetite and hunger.

If you are currently experiencing an increased appetite and hunger, it is important to evaluate your sleep pattern and determine if you are getting an adequate amount of sleep for your body to function properly. Making a small change such as sleeping an hour or two longer each night can have a substantial impact on your body’s ability to maintain weight and normalize appetite.


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Allison T. Siebern, PhD,Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center, Redwood City, Calif.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 23, 2016
Last updated: April 23, 2016