Why melatonin helps us get to sleep and why sleep makes us slim

Melatonin & Co: Wie Schlafhormone auf uns wirken Melatonin & Co: Wie Schlafhormone auf uns wirken

«Slim while asleep» – sounds rather attractive. But how should this statement be interpreted? The fact is that while we sleep, certain hormones are particularly active — and these have an effect on our body weight.

Sleep deficit can cause excess weight

The amount we sleep and our sleep quality have an impact on our body weight, as several studies show. People who sleep more develop less excess weight. On the other hand, that doesn't mean that people who sleep little are necessarily overweight. However, it’s a fact that sufficient sleep has a beneficial effect on our weight.

There's a certain logic to this theory: people who sleep less are awake longer and have more opportunity to eat. In addition, they're more likely to be tired and to skip doing the exercises they had planned on doing. But these reasons alone aren't enough, because it's our hormonal levels that regulate our weight – and it is hormones that influence whether we are hungry, full or have a craving for sweet foods. Let’s take a closer look at this.

Sleep hormones regulate

Sleep changes our appetite levels. This is because with insufficient sleep, the body releases the hormone ghrelin. This stimulates our appetite, steering our feeling of hunger and satiety. At the same time, less of the hormone leptin is released. This is the hormone that tells our brain when we are full. In short, people with little sleep tend to have a greater appetite and a limited feeling of satiety.

But it doesn't stop there. There's also the stress hormone cortisol. This enables the body to provide energy quickly and activate vital functions. While asleep, the body doesn't normally release cortisol until the morning. However, if – due to stress and sleep disorders – the cortisol concentration remains high, the opposite happens: the body builds up fat reserves.

Melatonin: helping us sleep well

Melatonin is another hormone that affects our sleep. It is mainly released by the pineal gland when night falls, ultimately making us tired and enabling us to sleep well. And even though it isn't directly linked to our feelings of hunger or satiety, melatonin affects our sleep – and this, as we have seen, has a distinct impact on our body weight.

«Slim while asleep» doesn’t tell the full story

Even if the solution «slim while you sleep» doesn't tell the full story, there is indeed a con­nection between sleep and body weight – and hormones play a key role in the process. And, for the body to produce these hormones, not only is the length of our sleep important but also the quality. This is a feeling that depends on the individual – feeling refreshed is what counts. But beware: studies show that less than six hours of restful sleep promotes obesity and related secondary diseases such as diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure.

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