Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night can not only leave you feeling groggy, it can also increase your chances of packing on the pounds.
University of Chicago researchers who reviewed a number of sleep studies have found insufficient sleep messes with the body’s regulation of appetite, blood pressure and glucose – leading to over-eating and weight gain.
The analysis, published in The American Journal of Human Biology, shows inadequate sleep affects the release of the hormones ghrelin, which increases appetite, and leptin, which produces feelings of "fullness" after you eat.
Lead researcher Dr. Kristen Knutson noted obesity develops when people consume more calories than they burn.
“Diet and physical activity play an important part in this, but an additional factor may be inadequate sleep," she said. "A review of the evidence shows how short or poor quality sleep is linked to increased risk of obesity by de-regulating appetite, leading to increased energy consumption."
Researchers noted sleep studies show about 18 of Americans – 53 million -- get less than 6 hours of sleep, putting them at risk of obesity.
They added that children and adolescents may be most at risk.
"These findings show that sleeping poorly can increase a person's risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease," concluded Knutson. "Future research should determine whether efforts to improve sleep can also help prevent the development of these diseases or improve the lives of patients with these conditions."