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Hormones Link Insomnia and Weight Gain

Hormones Link Insomnia and Weight Gain Insomnia has long been associated with poor health, including weight gain and even obesity. Now, researchers at UCLA have discovered an explanation for the unusual association.

In a study to be published in the May issue of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, Sarosh Motivala, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and colleagues looked at two hormones that are primarily responsible for regulating the body’s energy balance, telling the body when it is hungry and when it is full.

The study found that chronic insomnia disrupts one of these two hormones.

To date, no study has evaluated nocturnal levels of the two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, in primary insomnia patients.

Ghrelin, a peptide secreted by the stomach, stimulates appetite and increases before meals. Leptin, which affects body weight and is secreted primarily by fat cells, signals the hypothalamus regarding the degree of fat storage in the body; decreased leptin tells the body there is a calorie shortage and promotes hunger, while increased levels promote energy expenditure.

In the study, researchers compared healthy sleepers with those suffering from chronic insomnia and measured the levels of the two hormones at various times throughout the night. They found that while leptin levels averaged out over the night to be roughly the same between the two groups, levels of ghrelin were 30 percent lower in insomnia sufferers.

On the face of it, a decreased level of ghrelin would seem to inhibit weight gain; it is an increase in ghrelin, after all, that stimulates appetite. But Motivala compared his findings with other, earlier studies on sleep deprivation and speculates that a switch may occur during the day: Sleep loss leads to increased ghrelin and decreased leptin, a “double whammy” that stimulates appetite. Motivala is currently working on a study to examine this switch.

“The current study shows that insomnia patients have a dysregulation in energy balance that could explain why these patients gain weight over time,” said Motivala, who is also a member of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA.

“This is an exciting finding because it highlights how diverse behaviors like sleep and eating are connected. We are just beginning to explore the possible consequences of these connections, but it is another example of the importance of a good night’s sleep for the body.”

For the study, 38 male participants were divided into two groups — 14 insomnia sufferers and 24 healthy subjects. Both groups had similar ages and body weight. Both groups underwent polysomnography sleep studies that monitor brain waves.

Circulating levels of ghrelin and leptin were measured at 11 p.m., 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Ghrelin levels across the night were significantly lower in insomnia patients, while leptin levels were not significantly different between the two groups.

Source: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences

Hormones Link Insomnia and Weight Gain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Hormones Link Insomnia and Weight Gain. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/03/30/hormones-link-insomnia-and-weight-gain/5037.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.