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Get Some Sleep!



Picture this happening to you: Last night the tenants next door had a huge - and LOUD - blowout party that kept you awake for most of the night. The next day you wake up from a three hour sleep and find yourself preoccupied with food and guzzling cafe lattes, milk shakes and eating jumbo fast food burgers.

During break you rush off to raid the vending machine buying candy and chips. Meanwhile, you can't concentrate on writing that report that is due at the end of the day.  

You keep watching the wall clock counting the long minutes until lunch break so you can head over to the fast food restaurant down the street. You know that you shouldn't be eating these foods because they're just too high calorie and just not very healthy. But you can't help yourself.

Recent research findings have proven that sleep deprivation affects appetite and could explain your preoccupation with food. To find out more about why sleep is so important to your health- including your waist line- continue reading this article.


Many of us have done this-burning the midnight oil studying for midterms and finals; taking on a second or third job with late hours to earn extra income for the family; coming home after a late night game, date or midnight feature at the cinema; etc.

Sometimes we postpone sleep because we want to get as much activity into our waking hours as possible. The downside to this is that when we deprive ourselves of sleep we invite a host of health problems.

Mounting scientific evidence suggests an inverse relationship exists between lack of sleep and weight gain.

Case in point, researchers at the University of Chicago recently discovered that when people do not get enough sleep, it affects circulating levels of hormones that regulate hunger and appetite.

They observed that levels of leptin, a hormone that provides the body with a feeling of fullness, decreased while levels of another hormone, ghrelin, which triggers hunger actually increased which led many of the sleep deprived test subjects to select foods high in calories and carbohydrates (1).

Similarly, data collected on 1,024 individuals involved in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, found that persons who got less than five hours of sleep per night experienced a marked increase in ghrelin with a corresponding decrease in circulating levels of leptin (2).

What is the significance of these two hormones and how do they regulate appetite and weight? Leptin is secreted from white fat cells and is responsible for telling the brain that we have had enough to eat (3).

If, for whatever reason, the brain does not receive signals to stop eating, a person will continue to consume food even when it is no longer necessary or safe to do so. In most cases the end result of excess eating would be unwanted weight gain.

Ghrelin, sythesized by gastric cells, is the hormone that tells us that we are hungry (4). When individuals get less sleep, they produce more of this hormone (4). This would actually make sense because metabolic and physical activity will be greater when a person is awake thus energy demands would also increase.

This biological adaptation was beneficial to our prehistoric ancestors during a time which harsh environmental conditions and lack of technology would have forced them to work harder to hunt or gather food necessary to their survival.

In modern times, however, such fluctuations in these hormones is contributing to health related problems which could drastically impair our quality and quantity of life.


How You Can Get A Good Night's Sleep

So what can we do about this problem? One thing we can all do to help ourselves is to get more sleep. Since lack of sleep has been linked to a weight gain if people get more sleep per night over time they should begin to lose weight.

This isn't to suggest that people should spend an excessive amount of time sleeping, but a healthy seven to eight hours of sleep per night would do the body some good.

Of course the precise number of hours we require will differ. For example, infants and children require more sleep than adults (5). A person's individual physiology will also influence just how much sleep they will need in order to function at a normal pace.

Here are some tips for making it easier to get a good night's sleep.

  • avoid intense physical exercise one hour before bedtime because physical exertion releases hormones that speed up the body's metabolism
  • remove any visual or auditory distractions that would interfere with your ability to go to sleep
  • think pleasant thoughts. Dwelling on your problems won't make them go away and losing sleep over them will make them more difficult to solve
  • avoid caffeinated beverages before bedtime because caffiene increases metabolic activity
  • budget your time so that you can do several important tasks during your waking hours while allowing enough time for rest and relaxation

God took a day of rest when He created the world and instructs us to take time off, too. Since God takes a day of rest, why don't we? Jesus himself said that we should leave tomorrow's care for tomorrow and to be content for the day i.e. don't overexert yourself.

It isn't always easy to put off til tomorrow what you can do today but if you want to reduce your chances of obesity related diseases then this is a good place to start.

Besides, people who don't get enough sleep tend to be grumpier than those who are well rested. Another tidbit of information that you'll find useful is this: according to the National Center For Health Statistics, each year an estimated 42,031 automobile accident fatalities (6) a number of them which likely are the result of drivers not getting enough sleep.

In addition to the emotional cost of an automobile accident, is the damage to property, higher insurance premiums, and possible legal penalties for unsafe driving. So that should give us all something to think about.

Moreover, sleep deprivation makes a person more prone to depression, and increases stress on the cardiovascular and immune systems (7). So a good night's sleep will be a boost to your mood, and alleviate physical and mental stress, too.

With all of this in mind, it becomes increasingly obvious how important a good night's sleep is to our health and well being.

Have you ever had a carb craving because you didn't get enough sleep? What did you do about it? Share your thoughts in comments.


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1. Sleep Loss Boosts Appetite, May Encourage Weight Gain. ScienceDaily. Dec. 7, 2004. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041206210355.htm

2. Sleep Deprivation Tied to Shifts in Hunger Hormones. Scientific American. Dec. 7, 2004. http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=sleep-deprivation-tied-to&ec=ypi

3. Leptin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leptin

4. Ghrelin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghrelin

5. How Much Sleep Is Needed? http://www.drgreene.com/21_2182.html

6. FASTSTATS - Accidents or unintentional Injuries. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/acc-inj.htm

7. Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think: Chronic Sleep Deprivation May Harm Health. webMD. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/important-sleep-habits


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