Researchers have learned that sub-chronic sleep restriction — 4 hours of sleep or less in an evening — causes insulin resistance. And, when compared to normal sleep — defined as 8 hours in an evening — sleep restriction wreaks hormonal havoc. First, it caused insulin sensitivity to decrease by 25%. Second, the stress hormone cortisol increased by 21%.
This means that shortchanging yourself on sleep can substantially reduce your insulin sensitivity. This increases the risk of weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and eventually, type 2 diabetes.
At the same time, increased cortisol can also make your belly fat cells more receptive — causing you to have more belly fat. Increasing cortisol can also lower your sex hormones, and add to adrenal imbalances and adrenal insufficiency.
Lack of sleep also negatively affects thyroid hormones, hunger hormones, and other hormones.
So, if you want to balance hormones and lose weight, here's Step One: Get quality sleep!
The Effects of a Chronic Sleep Deficit on Your Hormones
Here are some of the effects that a chronic sleep deficit can have on your hormones:
- affects your ability to manufacture thyroid hormone properly, is associated with an elevated Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level — which is associated with hypothyroidism — and may impair T4 to T3 conversion, a crucial process for thyroid function
- lowers your production of growth hormone, which can help with weight loss and metabolism
- interferes with the production and cycle of adrenal hormones, which can lead to worsening adrenal fatigue, lowered immunity, increased belly fat, and worsening sleep patterns.
- affects hormones that control appetite, increasing your overall appetite, and in particular, cravings for simple carbohydrates and junk food, making it more likely that you will consume more calories
- lowers your insulin sensitivity, and may be a risk factor for and type 2 diabetes
- reduces levels of the hormone glucagon, which helps release fat from your cells. Less sleep means less fat is released.
Hormone health gives us another important reason to ensure that we get enough sleep. For some tips in how to get more and better quality sleep, see our Tips On How To Get The Best Sleep.
Madhu N. Rao MD et. al. "Sub-chronic sleep restriction causes tissue specific insulin resistance." Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. February 06, 2015