Sleep deprivation can lead to obesity

03.03.14 Learn Blog SumoSalad

As a dietitian, I often see people who can only be described as busy. They may be juggling kids, a full time job as well as some volunteer work or a semi-decent sporting career. Like most of us, when things get busy, the first thing to go is usually the 7-9hrs of shut eye we’re supposed to be getting each night. I know it is easier said than done, but here are some reasons why you should be getting a decent night’s sleep each night…

In 1999, a Chicago University conducted a study that found that built up sleep deprivation over a couple of days can lead to impaired metabolism and disrupted hormone levels. One of these side effects was a reduced ability to process glucose (what carbohydrates are broken down into), to the level of diabetes in some cases. The exact understanding of this was not quite there, and as such a follow-up study was conducted. Believe it or not, but the follow-up study demonstrated very similar results. This time, the scientists also looked at a few other hormone levels and they found that those who had been sleep deprived for a few days were displaying an increased level of the hormone, Leptin. One of the roles of Leptin in our body is to stimulate the appetite. If our level of Leptin is high, we get hungrier. To add to this, the symptoms that our bodies display when we are tired are very similar to those we display when we are hungry1.

These discoveries actually led some very smart people on to do further studies and unfortunately, the results all came out very similar. More recently, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine conducted another study in 2013. They found that the hours of sleep an adolescent (aged 14-18 years) gets each night may be inversely proportional to the prevalence of obesity i.e. the more sleep teenagers get, the less their risk of being overweight or obese2.

To really add weight to this hypothesis, the University of Cleveland also came up with the same conclusion – the less sleep you get, the greater your risk of obesity due to change in hormone levels impacting on appetite3.

Who would have guessed that a few hours less sleep for a few nights would have such massive implications on our health? If you are someone who only occasionally has a few late nights, but more often than not, you are getting the recommended 7-9hrs each night, then good for you. But, if you are one of those people who has a tendency to be really busy all the time, it may be appropriate to stop for a minute and reassess everything you have taken on.

If you are going through a period of sleep deprivation for whatever reason – then ensure you make exceptions to your food and beverage choices during this time. Choose foods and drinks that are low in energy but high in nutrients and have a good ‘filling’ factor. Some great examples are fresh fruit, vegetables and low fat dairy foods. When preparing a meal, choose lean meats and low GI carbs, with plenty of vegetables. Avoid high sugar foods as these will give you a massive sugar high, but will then leave you feeling as flat as a tack very quickly. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and Guarana, as these too, like sugar, will only result in a short term high following by a much longer energy low.

Most importantly, try to find time to get some shut-eye. If 7-9 consecutive hours are just not possible, then try your best to form healthy sleep habits i.e.  go to bed and get up at the same times each day and remove all distractions from your sleep environment such as phones, i-pads, TV’s etc computers etc. For more helpful hints & tips on how to get a better quality sleep, head to http://www.sleepfoundation.org/.


POSTED BY: Georgie Moore

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