Weight gain and sleep

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By Bob Otieno

Think about it. If you are feeling sleepy at work, you may be tempted to reach for a cup of coffee and a doughnut for a quick shot of energy. Later, you skip the gym and buy take-away food since you have no time to cook. When you finally jump on your bed, you are too wound up to sleep.

It is a vicious cycle and eventually this sleep deprivation can sabotage your waistline and health.

It starts out innocently. When you have sleep deprivation and running on low energy, you automatically go for a packet of crisps or other comfort food.

The immediate result? You may fight off sleepiness. The ultimate result? Unwanted kilos as poor food choices coupled with lack of exercise set the stage for additional weight gain and further sleep loss.

Sleep debt is like credit card debt. If you keep accumulating credit card debt, you will pay high interest rates or your account will be frozen until you pay it all off. If you accumulate too much sleep debt, your body will crash.

Lack of enough sleep is common and we even talk about it with pride. We brag about an all night-out, but we pay a price for staying up late and getting up early.

The sleep diet connection

It is not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep deprived, your metabolism will not function properly.

On average, we need about seven and a half hours of quality sleep per night. If you are getting this already, another half hour will not help you lose two more kilos. If you are a five-hour sleeper on the other hand and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.

How lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight has a lot to do with our nightly hormones.

The two hormones that are key are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat. When you are sleep deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin tells you to stop eating and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.

More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.

Handling sleep deprivation

Look at how much you sleep versus how well you sleep. Some people such as new mums may only get sleep for a four-hour stretch. And there are people who get seven to eight hours of sleep that is poor quality because of pain or an underlying sleep disorder. This has the same effect as if they get less sleep.

To manage this, avoid caffeine in the afternoon because it will keep you in the lighter stages of sleep that are associated with poor sleep at night.

Exercise improves sleep quality

How soon before bedtime should you exercise? It varies because we are all different. What matters is the fact that you exercise, not when you do it. To be safe, don’t exercise right before going to bed. But some people exercise better before bed and it doesn’t affect their sleep.

Watch what you eat before bedtime. Chocolate, pizza and beer before bedtime are not good. Neither is eating a big meal close to bedtime. Heavy meals before bed can also increase risk of heartburn, which will certainly keep you up all night.

Eat a few healthy snacks and then have a lighter meal like a cereal if you are running close to bedtime.

If you are getting enough hours of sleep but wake up and feel sleepy the next day, may be it is time you consulted a specialist on sleep disorders.





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Apr 9th, 2011 | Posted in Weight Loss
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