Many people pride themselves that they don’t get much sleep. For whatever reason, they may feel they have too much to do. Some people have difficulty sleeping. Other people have a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. There has been recent research showing that there may be a correlation between lack of sleep and the incidence of obesity and diabetes. Many Americans are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night. What are the effects on our bodies?
Sleep deprivation has been related to obesity through different mechanisms. For example, some research has shown an increase in insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the precursor to type 2 diabetes. Other studies have shown that sleep loss may actually increase appetite and the craving for high carbohydrate foods. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that are involved with appetite. Sleep deprivation has been shown to adversely affect these two hormones in a way that would increase appetite.
Another way that lack of sleep may affect your weight is through the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is a stimulus to breakdown muscle protein leading to increased blood glucose and a lower metabolic rate. When there is sleep deprivation, some studies have shown an increase in cortisol. Other changes that affect body weight would be through a decrease in resting metabolic rate and thyroid hormones.
Finally, a person who is awake more hours of the day has a greater opportunity to eat. Increased eating time and frequency are two things that are the result of less sleep. If you examine your sleeping habits, these may play a bigger role in your weight problem than you realize.
The following are some steps to improve your sleep.
- Stick to a regular bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine late in the afternoon.
- Avoid alcohol before bed.
- Keep all lights out.
- Go to the bathroom right before bed.
- Turn the television off
- Stay off the cell phone before bed.
- Exercise- at least 30 minutes daily (not within an hour or two of bedtime).
- Cool off – Try to keep the bedroom below 70 degrees.
- Focus on sleep. Do not use the bedroom for tasks such as study, work, or television watching.
Ten Steps to Better Sleep (Nutrition Today. Vol. 45 March/April 2010)