A young caucasian woman standing in front of the open refrigerator at late night, contemplating and wondering about a midnight snack in a domestic home kitchen. She is dressed in a bath robe hungry and looking for food. A symbol of dieting lifestyle. Photographed in vertical format.

Research has shown that ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, is impacted by sleep patterns and weight loss surgery.

Contributors: Malcolm K. Robinson, MD, FACS, Director of the Nutrition Support Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Laura Andromalos, MS, RD, LDN, Bariatric Nutrition Manager at BWH, and Hassan S. Dashti, PhD, a dietetic intern at BWH.

Have you ever considered what makes you feel hungry or full? Many signals within the body help control the amount of food we eat. Ghrelin, which is sometimes called the hunger hormone, is one of these signals.

Produced in the upper part of the stomach, ghrelin is a hormone that increases hunger. When the stomach is empty, ghrelin travels through the bloodstream and tells the brain to signal hunger. After eating, the stomach stops releasing ghrelin. Ghrelin levels change throughout the day. They are high just before eating a meal, letting you know that you are hungry, and low just after eating, letting you know that you are full.

When you eat less food through dieting, your ghrelin increases to high levels. This is your body’s attempt to make you eat more and slow weight loss. It also is part of the reason why people tend to feel hungrier during weight loss diets. On the other hand, overeating decreases ghrelin to lower levels, which results in less hunger, a sense of fullness, and less urge to eat. People with stable weights have fewer changes in their ghrelin levels and a more balanced sense of hunger and fullness throughout the day.

Research has shown that sleep patterns influence ghrelin. Sleep-deprived adults tend to have higher ghrelin levels, more hunger, and less feeling of fullness compared to adults who get seven-to-nine hours of sleep.

So, be sure to get enough sleep. Your weight may depend on it.

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