04/26/2016 12:24 EDT | Updated 04/27/2017 05:12 EDT

Why You May Need To Sleep More To Stay Slim

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Cork, Ireland

If you're trying to shed a few unwanted pounds in time for summer, you may be sabotaging yourself without realizing it.

Scientists have now discovered that a shortage of sleep can make you gain weight, regardless of what you eat and how much you exercise.

They have found a strong link between the amount of sleep a person gets and his/her levels of the appetite-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin. By way of explanation, ghrelin gets secreted by your stomach when you're hungry. And leptin is a hormone that does the opposite; it tells your brain that you're full.

With this in mind, medical research has exposed a cruel joke that Mother Nature likes to play on us. Essentially, sleep deprivation caused volunteers in a university study to experience continued production of ghrelin, even when they'd had enough to eat.

Even minor sleep loss over as little as two consecutive days can trick your brain into thinking your body needs more food.

At the same time, their cumulative fatigue caused them to exhibit low levels of leptin in their blood. The end result was that they were over-eating due to the malfunctioning of the brain circuitry controlling their appetites.

This means that if you're not sleeping enough, then you may well be eating too much without realizing it.

Worse still, you're probably craving junk foods, too. In fact, if you're severely sleep deprived, your appetite for salty, sweet, or starchy/fatty foods can almost double, according to Michael Breus, Ph.D -- who studies sleep deprivation and is the author of a book entitled Beauty Sleep.

Even minor sleep loss over as little as two consecutive days can trick your brain into thinking your body needs more food. So it's essential for you to get sufficient sleep each and every night (or at least as often as possible).

But keep in mind that there's no way of getting around this biological necessity. You simply can't stockpile sleep on the weekends to compensate for short-changing yourself on subsequent week nights. Medical science proved a long time ago that this doesn't work. Your body knows this to be the case, too.

Finally, it cannot be over-stated that you need at least eight hours of deep sleep each night if you're serious about getting (or staying) slim and sexy. And if you want to go one step further by sculpting shredded abs, then that's all the more reason to spend a sufficient length of time in bed.

Also, if eight hours doesn't feel restful enough, then go to bed an hour earlier and get a full nine hours of slumber. But don't make the mistake of feeling guilty about it. Just do it! Consider it to be an extension of your fitness regime -- if that's what it takes for you to smarten-up about getting great results.

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