The dreaded Freshmen 15 is something that I think is on a majority of people’s minds as they prepare for college. But why is the Freshmen 15 a thing? Is it the all you can eat buffets at the dining hall? The ramen you have stashed in your dorm room? Or is it all that pizza that you eat at one o’clock in the morning on a Saturday? While trying to figure out what lifestyle changes could factor in to me gaining the weight. I noticed that one of the biggest things that I have had to deal with as I adjust to college life is the drop in the amount of sleep that I have been getting. Even though my earliest class starts at ten o’clock in the morning, a good two hours later than my high school classes started, I have been going to bed much, much later than in high school. I was wondering if this change could contribute to gaining weight in college.
The one thing that I discovered was that though many people agree that lack of sleep can attribute to weight gain, there is disagreement about the mechanism behind this correlation. One article talked about two observational studies. One focused on men who suffered from recurrent sleep deprivation. The less that these men slept, the more they craved high-calorie foods and the more calories they consumed in general. The second study focused on women. The women who recorded that they slept for less than six hours a night were more likely to gain weight than women who slept seven or more hours a night. The article mentioned that there have been studies done with children and adolescents that have elicited similar results. The mechanism that this particular article gave had to do with the hormones that control hunger. The amount of time that someone sleeps can affect their levels of ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain that your body has had enough food. Ghrelin is a hormone that tells your brain that you are hungry. If these hormones are affected, it can change how often and how much you eat. Another article made the same claim that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, but they put the blame on a completely different hormone entirely. This article introduces cortisol, which is a stress hormone that makes you hungry. This suggests that when you sleep less, your cortisol levels rise, and you’re going to eat more. The article also talks about how sleep deprivation can stop your body from successfully digesting sugars. Lack of sleep can also cause your body to go into survival mode. Your body wants as much fuel as possible, and it wants to keep all available resources so your metabolism slows down. The third article that I looked at talked about how your lack of sleep could impact your decision-making, making you not want to say no to that late night pizza.
Even though the evidence is shaky, all of these claims made me think about the amount of sleep that I’m getting, and how it could be affecting my health.