Today we live a very hectic lifestyle and the majority of people do not get adequate sleep. It seems that for many people that there are not enough hours in the day time and so they cut down into the night time, to do whatever they want.
This, of course, limits the amount of sleep. In reality, the lack of sleep is not associated with work but simply a very busy social life- people would rather spend all night texting and surfing the internet than get a decent night’s sleep.
Over the past 3 decades, it had become obvious that Americans and people from the United Kingdom sleep less than their predecessors.
Our lifestyle has become more chaotic, we have become a nation of android lovers and remain fixated to screen all night. And not getting enough sleep has repercussions that go beyond just feeling irritable and tired the next morning.
There is growing evidence that not getting the recommended amount of sleep may be linked to weight gain. On average, it is recommended that adults should get at least 7 -8 hours of sleep, but unfortunately millions of people sleep much less than that- probably less than 6 hours.
There have been many large studies done on both adults and children who do not sleep the recommended number of hours.
Longitudinal follow up reveal that in most of these studies conducted in North America and abroad, people who slept less than 5 hours were more likely to develop weight gain compared to people who slept at least 7 hours a night.
These data are even more indicative that children who do not sleep more than 6 hours are not only at risk for obesity but also develop type 2 diabetes. Researchers believe that this may be the missing link to solving the cause of obesity.
These landmark studies have now renewed the importance of sleep. Healthcare workers are being urged to ask patients about their sleep patterns to avoid the risk of obesity. But the question is, ‘how can lack of sleep cause weight gain.’
Finally, a more plausible reason why people with lack of sleep get obese is that they are simply are too tired to exercise. Lack of sleep can cause moderate to severe fatigue. Besides the lethargic brain, there is general feeling of exhaustion and exercise is one of the last thing that is on the mind of a person who has not slept well the night before.
How Does Sleep Affect Body Weight?
Exactly how lack of sleep causes weight gain is not well understood but researchers believe that it could be due multiple factors which include the following:
More time to Eat: It is believed that the more time a person remains awake, the more time he or she has to eat. In fact, several studies show that people who remain awake for long hours tend to be eat more frequently than people who have adequate sleep.
Abnormal hormonal patterns: it is well known that when the sleep wake cycle is disturbed, it also leads to havoc with the hormones. During sleep deprivation, the hormone (ghrelin) that controls hunger is increased and the level of the satiety inducing hormone, leptin is decreased. In addition, ghrelin also induces a craving for carbohydrates and fatty foods. The cravings by the ghrelin are intense and often result in binge eating- which can result in weight gain.
Fight off sleep: It is also well known that people who do not sleep enough often eat foods to keep them awake. Many of these individuals will drink gallons of hot beverages like coffee and tea (with sugar) and eat sugary foods at the same time. The reason for the sugary foods is that the brain can only use glucose for energy and thus there are intense cravings for ‘sweet’ foods. Studies in workers who work night shifts have shown that the consumption of fast and processed foods by these workers is significantly higher than those who work the day shift.
Making unhealthy choices. When people are awake at night, they often make unhealthy food choices. Plus, at night the only places that are usually open are the fast food stores. Fast foods contain high levels of simple carbs, saturated fats and tons of calories. And within no time, the waistline can start to bulge.
Less energy expenditure: There is also evidence that people who sleep less, expend less energy. Most people who have not sleep properly are often tired the following day and hence less active. In fact, sleep deprived people tend to spend more time on their couch texting on their androids, watching TV or surfing cyberspace.
Low body temperature: Studies in the laboratory reveal that sleep deprived people often drop their body temperature. This drop may be a contributing factor to less energy expenditure.
The bottom line!
There is now convincing evidence that not getting the ideal amount of sleep is associated with weight gain both in adults and children. Obesity is now a global problem and has overtaken smoking as public enemy number one. There is no magic bullet to curing obesity. Over the years many treatments have come and gone. There are some medications for weight loss, but they are all expensive and also possess potent adverse effects. Surgery for weight loss does work but it is associated with life threatening complications; and because the procedure does not stop the cravings, many people regain the weight in a matter of years.
So, the ideal method is to prevent obesity in the first place. Probably the easiest method to prevent weight gain and one which doesn't cost anything, is to develop good sleep hygiene. This means sleeping and waking at the same time every day, even on a weekend. In addition, one should make the bedroom a comfortable place to sleep with few distractions and of course, avoid turning the bedroom into a kitchen.
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Finally, next to sleep, it is vital to perform some type of exercise during the day time- even walking is a great exercise. It is FREE, allows you to enjoy nature, makes you feel good and is safe- unless you get hit by a bus while texting.