Sleep disturbance and changes in appetite, hunger hormones and exercise…


A change/reduction in the amount of quality sleep we manage to get each night, whether that be from waking up to care for small babies/young children, increased anxiety and stress symptoms or exposure to blue light from electronic devices, can have a knock-on effect to our appetites.

The hormones leptin and ghrelin are responsible for balancing hunger and satiation.  Ghrelin triggers the hunger sensation with leptin telling us we are full.  With reduced sleep (5 hours per night as opposed to 8) research has found that Leptin levels drop by 15.5% and ghrelin levels increase by 14.9%.  This means the body will feel hungrier, often favouring high refined carbohydrate foods rather than vegetables and fruit, and not be as efficient at telling you that you feel full.  This can result in increased energy intake and weight gain, particularly if there is not a balance of energy input and expenditure (something that may not always occur with increased fatigue from poor sleep, rest and recovery).

Maintaining a good balance in the hunger/satiation hormones requires prioritising sleep to help proper regulation and production of the two hormones.  If sleep is still disturbed, for example due to young children, bring the focus onto gaining quality sleep if duration is lower than desired.

Minimising blue light exposure from all electronic devices 2 hours before bed will also help.  Blue light delays the release of melatonin the hormone responsible for inducing sleep and can also increase how alert we feel.  The result of regular exposure can lead to a shift in our overall circadian rhythm, moving our cycle to favour a later schedule.

Breathing techniques may help with stress/anxiety symptoms and help to regulate heart rate and prepare the body for sleep.  These are some techniques that are known as sleep hygiene.  Modifying our behaviours to focus on the restorative sleep part of our circadian rhythm will enable improved whole-body functioning in the daytime.

Sleep also helps to manage insulin sensitivity, which refers to how sensitive the body’s cells are in response to insulin.  Insulin is another of the body’s hormones, and this one is responsible for controlling the levels of sugar in our blood.

High levels of insulin sensitivity means the sugar in the blood is used more effectively by the body so doesn’t linger in the blood system, whereas low insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, means the cells don’t absorb as much sugar from the blood which can lead to development of type 2 diabetes.

Exercise can also help to regulate balance in these hormones alongside achieving good sleep.  Exercise uses some of the excess glucose/sugar in the blood system thus helping to regulate to more normal levels.  The type of exercise that best targets this process is a combination of aerobic and strength training.

If you need further advice on integrating an exercise plan to help regulate sleep, we can help with that.

We will be developing a nutrition service that will help to support you to maintain balance in your energy intake and hormone regulation so that all these factors can work as optimally as possible.

Contact us for more information

01284 748200

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Maynewater Lane, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 2AB | 01284 748200 |

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