Are you getting enough?
Are you wondering why that tummy won’t shrink as it should, or why you seem to keep slipping on a few pounds here and there without changing your diet or exercise regime? The reason could be found in your sleeping habits.
Even without changes to what you eat and how much you exercise, alterations in your body’s metabolism can lead to weight gain; and apparently one of the things that can insidiously affect your metabolism is lack of sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, research is now pointing to dire effects on your weight control, with weight gain of more than 10lbs in a year being one possible result.1
For busy people trying to cram several days’ worth of activity into each 24-hour slot, this may be yet another unwelcome wake-up call. Seemingly, getting less than five-and-a-half hours sleep per night can cause your metabolic rate to drop by as much as 12%.
This means that even if you eat the same amount of food as usual, it will give you less energy. The calories you consume will be burnt off at a slower rate too, due to the lowered metabolic rate. Which seems vastly unfair when often the reason for poor sleep is stress caused by excessive busy-ness, rather than a couch potato lifestyle.
Nor is this the end of the bad news. Your pancreas, the organ that produces insulin to break down sugars and starches, doesn’t do so as efficiently when you’re sleep deprived. Like the rest of you, it just doesn’t work so well when it’s not had sufficient rest. This becomes increasingly apparent the longer the sleep deprivation continues. No wonder it sometimes seems impossible to shift baby weight, when those delightful creatures that caused the weight gain are busy keeping you up all night and thereby making it harder for your body to burn it off.
Less insulin is excreted by the drooping, sleep-deprived pancreas, and this not only affects weight but also makes it more likely that you’ll develop diabetes, as you will have higher glucose concentrations in your blood stream. Previous research has already shown that lean people with normal insulin production were adversely affected by lack of sleep, with their insulin profile changing for the worse as they missed out on sleep.2
This new research backs up the findings, watching the deteriorating state of sugar metabolism over a 6-week period, as sleep patterns were sporadically disrupted giving the participants less than 6 hours sleep per 24 hour period.
The effects were even more pronounced in night shift workers, who are apparently rewarded for ploughing through the hours of darkness to keep vital services going by becoming particularly prone to weight gain and to the development of diabetes. This is due to the negative effect that the disruption of the internal biological clock has on insulin secretion.
Higher glucose levels are found in the blood of those who are sleep deprived, but even more so if the sleep poor are also out of synch with a normal pattern of sleeping during the night hours. Trying to catch up on sleep during the day isn’t good enough.
The risks are the same for men and women, and don’t vary according to age. Anyone who is exposed to disrupted or truncated sleep patterns is vulnerable to these effects.
This research offers insight into why chronic sleep problems, like insomnia and sleep breathing problems, have been shown to be associated with heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect,” said the lead researcher.
Improving sleep patterns with herbs such as Valerian is a simple and effective way of reducing the risk of developing these health problems, and instead of trying to prove one’s worth by getting by on as little sleep as possible, prioritising sleep might be the best thing we can do for both our overall health and our waistlines.
1Buxton OM et al. Sci Transl Med 2012; (4) 129ra43
2 Darukhanavala A et al. Diabetes Care 2011; 34: 2259-64