Sleep loss wreaks havoc on our brains, but did you know that it can also influence your waistline?
Research presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Portugal showed that sleep loss increases the risk of obesity (1).
An estimated 50-70 million US adults are struggling with sleep loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called insufficient sleep a public health problem (2). Lack of sleep has been linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational accidents.
Disrupted sleep is a feature of modern life. Millions of Americans are going to bed with intrusive thoughts, mobile devices, loud sleeping partners, illness and many other reasons why they aren’t getting sufficient sleep. Interrupted sleep can predispose you to weight gain, by affecting your appetite and responses to food and exercise.
A group of researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden have conducted a number of studies to investigate how sleep loss may affect energy metabolism. They found that sleep loss shifts the hormonal balance of hormones that promote fullness (satiety).
The study revealed that metabolically healthy, yet sleep-deprived people “prefer larger food portions, seek more calories, exhibit signs of increased food-related impulsivity, experience more pleasure from food, and expend less energy.”
That’s because acute sleep loss alters the balance of gut bacteria, which has been widely known as key for maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Another study published in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity analyzed epidemiological studies that found an association between insufficient sleep and type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (3).
Shift workers are a particular group prone to sleep deprivation because of how working at night disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. A study from Brazil examined the sleep patterns and health of 905 shift workers (4). Researchers found a strong association between sleep deprivation and obesity and that sleep deprivation may be a direct consequence of working at night.
The disruption of the circadian rhythm can lead in the short-term to an array of jet-lag-like symptoms, and in the long-run it may contribute to weight gain and obesity, metabolic syndrome/type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. This conclusion comes from another study on shift workers, published in Sleep Medicine Reviews (5).
Researchers from Harvard followed some 60,000 nurses during a 16-year span. Known as the Nurses’ Health Study, the women were asked about their weight, sleep habits, diet, and other aspects of their lifestyle (6). By the end of the study the association between sleep deprivation and obesity was strong:
- At the start of the study, all of the women were healthy, and none were obese; 16 years later, women who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese, compared to women who slept 7 hours per night. Short sleepers also had 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study, compared to women who got 7 hours of sleep per night.
- These studies highlight how disrupted sleep patterns can predispose us to weight gain and disease.
The National Sleep Foundation has several tips for helping you get to sleep and stay asleep, including practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual, sticking to the same sleep time and daily exercise (7). Lack of quality sleep raises the risk for a slew of serious health issues including neurological disorders.
If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible causes and solutions. In the meantime, try this delicious turmeric tea nightcap that lulls you to sleep and it’s packed with anti-inflammatory properties.
For a supplement, consider Melatonin Extended Release, it’s released quickly and steadily to promote restful sleep. Melatonin is also an antioxidant, providing the added benefit of immune support. And last, don’t forget to download the Good Night’s Sleep Checklist.