SLEEP – The Undervalued Lifestyle Habit

We sleep 1.5 hours less than our grandparents slept, which breaks down to 23 full days less of sleep per year.  Are there ramifications of this sleep deprivation and does it really affect our health?

We try to change our diets, get more exercise, and take better care of our bodies so why don’t we value sleep?

Remember the college days when many bragged about pulling an all nighter?  Somehow there is nostalgia about not needing sleep, getting rest, etc.  We also live in an ever-changing world with multiple electronic gadget which make it difficult for our brains to turn off.

There are 2 kinds of sleepers – those that are called “short sleepers” who only need 5 hours of sleep per night.  The rest of us are “long sleepers” who need at least 7-9 hours per night.  The following research applies to long sleepers, which is about 90% of the population.

What does sleep research show?

  • A recent study in Science Translational Medicine reported that people without diabetes who slept 6 hours a night for 3 weeks made 32% less insulin after a meal, leading to higher blood glucose levels reaching diabetic levels along with a lowered metabolic rate.  The researchers translated the results into an approximately 13 pound weight gain per year if the subjects continued the sleep deprivation.
  • Dr. Kristen Knudson, a professor at the University of Chicago has studied what happens to hunger hormones during sleep deprivation.  Her research shows a 24% increase in hunger/appetite along with a craving for specific foods.  Subjects showed an affinity of 45% increase in salty foods, and a 33% increase in desire for sweet/starchy foods
  • A majority of sleep studies show those that are sleep deprived eat about 250 more calories per day than those who are rested.

Take home message?

If you are concerned about your health, and/or need to lose some weight the best thing you can do for yourself if get some rest.  I’ve had clients who were doing everything right – eating well and getting lots of exercise but could not lose weight due to inadequate rest.

Micheal Breus, who is coined the Sleep Doctor, recommends setting an alarm at night just as you do in the morning to remind yourself to go to bed.  Although it always seems there is ONE MORE THING to do, the chances are you will get it done tomorrow if you get more rest tonight.

And the better news is your appetite will be easier to control, weight loss will be easier, and diabetes will be a more controllable lifestyle factor.  Experiment with how much sleep you need to feel rested in the morning and consider that the priority even over diet and exercise.

Need some ideas for sleep hygiene?

  • Turn off electronics 1 hour before bed.  The light from TV’s and devices keeps the brain awake and alert
  • Avoid caffeine after noon and limit alcohol since it disrupts REM sleep
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
  • Exercise or get some activity for 30 minutes per day – this dramatically increases REM or deep sleep which resets the brain for the next day