A 2013 study out of University Colorado Boulder suggests that sleeping five hours a night over a workweek and having unlimited access to food caused participants to gain nearly two pounds. Researchers found that although you burn more calories when awake, the amount of calories consumed overrides the calories burned. In short, insufficient sleep can lead people to eat more than needed.

Researchers at Northwestern University have also found a link between eating and sleeping that can in fact affect your weight. Since the 1960s, the average amount of sleep American adults get has dropped from 8.5 hours to less than 7 hours per night. A similar pattern is occurring for young adults.

Participants in the study who slept for four hours a night on two consecutive nights showed an 18% increase in appetite, especially for high fat and carbohydrate snacks. The study suggests that sleep deprivation alters the hunger-regulating hormones in your body (increasing ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and decreasing leptin, the satiety hormone). This leads to an increased appetite with a preference for high fat, high calorie and sugar-containing foods. Thus, an adequate amount of sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and for weight maintenance.

If you are losing sleep due to feelings of negative thoughts or anxiety, increasing the amount of serotonin in your body may help improve your mood and promote better sleeping patterns. Serotonin is a hormone in the brain that acts as a chemical messenger that transmits nerve signals between nerve cells. Changes in the serotonin levels in the brain can alter mood.

Here are some natural ways to increase serotonin:

• Catch some rays! Research indicates that serotonin levels increase when the sun is shining. Ever wonder why you crave carbohydrates at the end of the day? When the sun goes down, so do your serotonin levels. Consider exposing yourself to sunlight in the late afternoon, or use light therapy to boost your serotonin and leave you feeling refreshed and more energized.

• Smile! Serotonin is part of positive chemistry so when you put yourself in a joyful situation with good thoughts, your serotonin levels increase. Smile when walking past a stranger or find something good in your day to give yourself a boost!

• Get moving! Exercise increases both endorphins (“feel good hormones”) and serotonin levels in your body due to the increase in the amount of oxygen you use when engaging in physical activity. While you want to aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week, even as little as 20 minutes can enhance your mood.

• Socialize! Getting together with a close friend or relative can help you feel bonded, which in turn increases serotonin levels. Research suggests that feeling a bond with another individual decreases negative emotions (such as fear or anxiety) and thus naturally increases serotonin production.

Additional Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep:

• Take a warm bath prior to bedtime.

• Improve your sleep environment. Select a comfortable mattress, pillow, sheets, and clothing, and keep the room temperature moderate or cool.

• Improve sleep hygiene by developing a pre-bedtime routine and follow it regularly. This will help signal your body that it’s time to sleep.

• Try to get to bed around the same time each night.

• Make yourself a cup of warm herbal tea (i.e. Chamomile) or warm milk, and read until you feel drowsy.

Although weight loss is more complex than simply getting adequate sleep, getting a good night’s sleep and enough sleep hours can help. Use these tips to help balance your hunger-regulating hormones with a restful sleep so you can feel stronger, healthier and more productive.

Author's Bio: 

Bonnie R. Giller helps chronic dieters and people with medical conditions like diabetes take back control so they can get the healthy body and life they want. She does this by creating a tailored solution that combines three essential ingredients: a healthy mindset, nutrition education and caring support. The result is they lose weight and keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life symptom free.

Bonnie is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.), Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN) and Certified Diabetes Educator (C.D.E.) with specialized training in Intuitive Eating. She offers programs for the chronic dieter to achieve long lasting weight loss, for people with diabetes to attain blood sugar control and prevent diabetes complications, and for those suffering with irritable bowel syndrome to identify their food triggers so they can enjoy a symptom free life. Bonnie also treats a variety of other medical conditions, and offers a nutrition program teaching young children how to make healthy food choices.

Get a copy of Bonnie’s Free Guide, “5 Steps to a Body You Love without Dieting” at www.DietFreeZone.com .

Get a FREE Health Assessment and discover the “6 Lifestyle Habits that Put Your Health at Risk” at www.brghealth.com .

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