You toss and turn. And you count sheep until the cows come home. But did you know that getting insufficient shut-eye could be making you fat?
You are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of us are sleep deprived. Not so coincidentally, 35.7 percent of Americans are considered obese. With two such similar statistics it’s not difficult to come to a reasonable conclusion: the less we sleep the more we weigh.
According to the Huffington Post, the increase in body weight in the U.S. population has been paralleled by a reduction in sleep times.
“For the past four decades, daily sleep duration has decreased by one and a half to two hours, and the proportion of young adults sleeping less than seven hours per night has more than doubled, from 15.6 percent in 1960 to 37.1 percent in 2002,” the online news source states.
Research Supports Sleep/Weight Connection
There are numerous studies that have cemented the link between sleep and weight. Large studies have revealed that adults are more likely to be overweight and obese the less they sleep. The New York Times also reported on smaller studies in which scientists found that when people are allowed to sleep eight hours one night and then half that amount on another, they end up eating more on days they’ve had less shut-eye. In yet another study at the University of Colorado, researchers determined that losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row caused folks to pack on an average of two pounds.
Another study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, attempted to get to the bottom of this weighty equation. The researchers concluded that sleep loss may increase hunger and affect the body’s metabolism, which in turn makes it tough to maintain or lose weight.
Why Does Sleep Loss Make Us Gain?
We could probably all come up with our own opinions on why sleep loss makes us gain weight. However, scientists have drilled it down to two basic theories.
The first one is based on the fact that sleep loss has been shown to affect the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite. Then what happens? Sadly, these sleep deprived folks continue to feel hungry despite adequate food intake.
The other theory is that sleep loss increases fat storage. It seems lack of sleep interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, which in turn leads to soaring blood sugar levels. This excess blood sugar promotes overproduction of insulin, which can lead to the storage of body fat and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
5 Ways To Get To Get To Dreamland
Daily habits put up roadblocks to your journey to dreamland. Here are a few tips to help you get back on track.
- Nix Afternoon Caffeine – Everyone knows that drinking coffee or tea before hitting the hay won’t help you get to dreamland. However, you also need to monitor those caffeinated afternoon beverages that can sabotage sleep later. Try to stop sipping them by 2 p.m. or earlier and instead take a short energizing walk to help you get over your mid-day slump.
- Sip Sooner
Sure, a nightcap might seem like a good way to relax and fall asleep faster. But here’s the thing: it won’t help the second half of your sleep cycle, as it decreases deep sleep and increases midnight wake-ups. If you enjoy a glass of wine, it’s wise to imbibe at dinnertime, rather than bedtime. And always drink in moderation, so the effects will ware off before you slumber.
- Take an Earlier Bath
There’s nothing like a hot bath to help you unwind and prepare for sleep, right? Yes and no. Researchers have now found that raising your body temperature too close to bedtime may actually hinder you from falling asleep. Here’s why: your body needs to cool to a certain temperature in order to reach deep slumber. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still soak after a rough day; just do it earlier in the evening, not right before bedtime.
- Ditch The “Blues”
“Blue light prevents the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. ”
According to the Washington Post, cell phones, laptops and tablets emit light of all colors, but it’s the blues in particular that pose a danger to sleep. Blue light prevents the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
In a perfect world, melatonin is released a couple hours before bedtime. It’s not a knock-out hormone, but it does reduce alertness and makes sleep very appealing. But blue light can prevent the release of this hormone, thus warding off sleepiness.
Can’t part with your bedside electronics? There are a few possible solutions for reducing your exposure to blue light at night. One is a program called f.lux, a program that makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. This program can be installed on computers, iPads, and iPhones, and may have a significant effect on your melatonin secretion. The best part? It turns on automatically in response to the daylight in your particular time zone, so there’s no need to remember any adjustments to the screen.
- Set Your Internal Clock
Setting 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. So try to stick as closely as possible to your routine on weekends to avoid a Monday morning sleep hangover. Waking up at the same time each day is the very best way to set your clock, and even if you did not sleep well the night before, the extra sleep drive will help you consolidate sleep the following night.