We rely on sleep to provide us with rest and restoration from the activities of the day. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, where once we slept 9 hours a night a century ago, today, as a sleep deprived society, we are sleeping on an average 6.8 hours.
Poor time management and its consequences is a major source of stress and lack of sleep. Time is a precious resource and it needs to be divided between work, family, recreation and rest.
To have a good night’s sleep you need to –
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet and comfortable
- Have a firm mattress and a good pillow
- Try and deal with issues that cause anxiety before you go to bed eg write your worries in a journal or try a quick 5-10 minute meditation to help you decompress.
- Exercise regularly. Studies indicate that aerobic exercise (swimming, running, walking, cycling or even a bit of hanky panky) is the most beneficial for improving sleep. The reason for this is that it increases the period of slow wave sleep, the 3rd stage of sleep and the most important where restoration is most marked. Cutting back sleep time to less than 6 hours means you experience less slow-wave sleep. Interruptions in slow-wave sleep are the most detrimental to metabolic health.
- Stay away from caffeine, alcohol and nicotine at least 4 – 6 hours before bed
The Right Amount of Sleep is Critical for Good Health
Sleep serves so many functions critical for good health. It is mind boggling to discover that new research has even found that just one night of sleep loss can contribute to metabolic changes that result in not only weight gain, but also chronic disease.
When you’re sleep deprived, your metabolic system is out of balance, and this actually affects the dietary choices you make, often making you crave more carbohydrates. You can safely say that sleep deprivation is a risk factor for obesity.
Researchers have observed too, that there is an increase in inflammation as well as adverse changes at the molecular level as a result of a sleepless night. These changes are most times seen in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. As mentioned, just one sleepless night can impair your metabolism and can even be the start of chronic diseases.
What is this all-important Metabolism?
Metabolism is a process – it is the way our cells change the food we eat into the energy we need to simply do life. Age and your body size can result in variations in resting metabolic rate. The problem with faulty metabolism comes from consuming too many calories, not exercising enough and not getting enough sleep, as in 7 to 9 hours sleep each night.
Sleep plays a key role in weight control, and not getting enough sleep will make it that much harder for you to lose weight and reach your ideal body weight. Sleep is closely connected to different hormonal and metabolic processes in the body, and research shows that sleep deprivation can have serious metabolic and cardiovascular implications.
Too little sleep therefore makes it easier to gain weight as your metabolism is slowed. Your basal metabolic rate is regulated by your thyroid which produces hormones, T3 and T4 with the help of TSH. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in your brain, stimulating the production of thyroid hormones which boost metabolic rate.
Lack of sleep over 6 days can cause your TSH to fall by 30%. Lack of sleep also negatively impacts metabolic function by changing the way your body processes glucose.
Research reveals that those who sleep less than 4 hours every night for 6 nights showed large reductions in the ability to clear glucose from their bloodstream. It takes up to 40% longer to regulate blood sugar after eating a meal high in carbs when you’re sleep deprived. This puts stress on your pancreas and can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Two Important Hormones Negatively Impacted by Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep impacts the activities of 2 major appetite hormones – leptin and ghrelin. These hormones are important for the way your appetite works. The hormone Ghrelin increases your appetite and Leptin indicates satiety. Lack of sleep encourages ghrelin and decreases leptin. Your metabolism is affected and your brain doesn’t signal that you are full, resulting in extra calories and potential weight gain.
Make sure you get a good night’s rest because you can see that lack of sleep doesn’t only make you grumpy, sluggish and puffy in the face, lack of sleep is linked to an increase in the risk of obesity.
Many people don’t realize that they can burn calories simply by getting a good night’s sleep. There is such a huge amount of evidence that proves if you’re not getting enough sleep you will gain weight, that it is worth taking notice. It is time to wake up to the fact that getting in solid hours of undisturbed sleep is crucial to your happiness and mental and physical wellbeing.
- NCBI. Sleep Loss and Inflammation. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3548567/
- Medscape. The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism. Available at https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825