Can a Lack of Sleep Make you Fat?
July 11, 2012 | In Health, News
Unfortunately the answer may be yes, as researchers discover that a lack of sleep may be another in the long list of lifestyle factors conspiring to keep us from being as svelte as we would like! The link between sleep and weight was made in a new scientific paper which investigated the evidence from a number of sleep restriction studies which appear to show that inadequate sleep is linked to obesity. The findings suggest that getting less than seven hours of sleep a night may be linked to a higher body mass index (BMI), a measurement of weight relative to height. The association between inadequate sleep and higher BMI is stronger in children and adolescents.
The research, published in The American Journal of Human Biology, found that a lack of sleep can affect weight through its negative influence on appetite regulation and its ability to impair glucose metabolism. The review also found that by getting adequate sleep each night we may be able to reduce the impact of genetic influences on weight gain.
Inadequate sleep can lead to disordered secretion of the hormones ghrelin (which increases appetite) and leptin (which helps the body know when it is satiated). This can lead to increased food intake thus leading to weight gain. Scientists also discovered that a poor night’s sleep could trigger a vicious cycle of unhealthy snacking throughout the day as tiredness and lack of concentration can increase cravings for sugary and fatty foods. This can lead to a sharp peak in blood sugar levels, swiftly followed by a slump – which in turn encourages people to seek out more sugary snacks. Lack of sleep also seems to have an effect on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity which determines how well our body is able to metabolise energy from foods containing carbohydrates. This is significant as impaired insulin sensitivity has also been related to cravings for sugary foods.
So might this mean you can sleep yourself thin? Probably not, but you may be able to sleep yourself to a point where you are less liekly to crave foods that could lead to weight gain and where any genetic pre disposition to weight gain is minimised.
Tips for improving sleep
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other stimulants that interfere with sleep at least 4-6 hours before bedtime
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment.
- A quiet, dark, and cool environment can help promote restful sleep.
- Use heavy curtains, blackout shades or an eye mask to block light. Melatonin, your sleep hormone, is only produced in the dark so keep this in mind particularly in the summer months when you have brighter evenings and earlier morning light.
- Have a comfortable mattress and pillows (remember that most mattresses wear out after ten years.)
- Limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex only! Keeping computers, TVs, and mobile phones out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep. Some also believe that the electromagnetic energy emitted from these gadgets disrupts melatonin production.
- Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine
- Light reading before bed is a good way to prepare for sleep. Just make sure it is not a thriller!
- Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities. Take a bath or practice relaxation exercises and deep breathing.
- Avoid stressful, stimulating activities before bed as physical and psychological stress can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try journaling or mindfulness meditation.
- Having a regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Waking up at the same time each day is the very best way to set your clock.
- Lighten up your evening meal
- Eating a large plate of food may be a recipe for insomnia. Aim to finish your dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates. If you get hungry at night, snack on foods that won’t disturb your sleep such as oat cakes with hazelnut butter or organic milk with ground nutmeg.
- Foods rich in tryptophan may also help with sleep such as turkey, chicken, sardines, tofu, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and lentils.
- Exercise early
- Exercise helps promote restful sleep if it is done several hours before you go to bed. Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly—as long as it’s done at the right time. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
Right – well I’m off to bed then!!
Can a Lack of Sleep Make you Fat? By Caroline Noonan
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