Health Insurance Premiums are partially based on your height and weight. If your weight exceeds what is “normal” for your height you will have more expensive health insurance premiums. Your ability to purchase health plans are also based on your BMI.  Several studies have linked insufficient sleep and weight gain.  For example, people who sleep on average less than six hours per night are much more likely to have a higher than average BMI (body mass index).  People who sleep eight hours have the lowest

BMI.   You may now add lack of sleep as a potential risk factor for obesity to the two most commonly identified risk factors: lack of exercising and overeating.  It may seem a little odd to equate lack of sleep to obesity but this is what the brains at Harvard have found:

“During sleep our bodies secrete hormones that help to control appetite, energy, metabolism, and glucose processing.  Obtaining too little sleep upsets the balance of these and other hormones.  For example, poor sleep leads to an increase in the production of cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone.”  Poor sleep is also associated with increases in the secretion of insulin following a meal.  Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose processing and promotes fat storage; higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain, a risk factor for diabetes.”

How does a lack of sleep determine if we have had enough food to eat?  From the Harvard study again:

“Insufficient sleep is also associated with lower levels of leptin, a hormone that alerts the brain that it has enough food, as well as higher levels of ghrelin, a biochemical that stimulates appetite.  As a result, poor sleep may result in food cravings even after we have eaten an adequate number of calories.  We may also be more likely to eat foods such as sweets that satisfy the craving for a quick energy boost.  In addition, insufficient sleep may leave us too tired to burn off these extra calories with exercise.”

We all have experienced the relationship between sleep and our ability to function, or not, the next day.  Fatigue, bad mood, and lack of focus are the buddies of sleepless nights.  The sleep experts will tell you that treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury, may be an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.