Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

 It’s a cold winters night and a feeling of slumber comes over you and the first thought of comfort is crawling under your warm blankets and falling into a deep sleep. Many of us eventually give in to this, but stave it off or ignore for far too long.  Our bodies are telling us we need sleep! 

Sleep is when our body regenerates, heals, repairs and keeps our minds refreshed.  Many new thoughts or problem solving, comes a lot easier once you have had proper sleep.  Our immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy and a deficiency can change the way in which our immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.

In fact, it plays such an important role in our health that an ongoing deficiency is linked to many chronic diseases: Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease.  Other more immediate things are, coordination, balance, mind clarity….

The methods used to “stay awake” not only aid in the serious health consequences that can come from sleep deprivation but actually speed them up to happening faster.  Way to often stimulants of coffee, tea or energy boosting drinks are used when we are sleep deprived in the hope of some instant energy. Additional food – excess energy, is also consumed, and in many cases, almost in a way of being unconsciously aware it.  

When we use stimulants to fight off sleep, we impact many hormones from doing their jobs properly and this leads to another major risk factor – obesity.  In a study of teenagers, the results showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. This went on to study other age groups and found sleep deficiency had the same result.

The hormones affected by the above that lead to obesity are ghrelin the “hunger hormone”, leptin the “full hormone”, insulin the “blood sugar” hormone and cortisol the “stress” hormone.  How it works:

When sleeping your body doesn’t require much energy so there’s no need to trigger the feeling of hunger or the burning of calories.  This results in leptin levels being elevated and ghrelin levels being decreased.  But when sleep deprivation is present your brain gets mixed signals.  Through a series of steps, your brain is told or thinks there is not enough energy for the needs at hand, so it says you are hungry.  Even though you don’t actually need food at that time, your decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin levels results in a constant state of hunger and slow down of metabolism.  The result being everything you eat in this state, your body stores these calories as fat (basically ceasing calorie burn), so you have enough energy for next time.   The body actually thinks there is a calorie shortage and goes into a survival mode.

Insulin and cortisol are then affected as insulin controls blood glucose (sugar) levels and sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level.  Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy and in the case of sleep deprivation gets elevated in effort to stimulate alertness.  But with ongoing elevated cortisol levels, cells of our body can become resistant to insulin. 

The result of this is an increase in appetite and causes of cravings for sweet, high-fat, and salty foods.  This contributes the to chronic diseases that come about as we the foods grabbed, are not usually nutrition dense.  If we grabbed for vegetables we wouldn’t have as big a problem.

So, give in and go to sleep!

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
Follow DEEM Health on Facebook, or contact info@deemhealth.ca

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