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Beyond Trim

Light Sleepers May Be Heavier

Sleep is as important to your health as diet and physical activity. Those who sleep poorly - meaning they don’t get enough sleep or do not get good quality sleep - may be more at risk for serious health issues like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other chronic health problems like kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and depression have also been linked to sleep deprivation.

Poor sleep may also contribute to increased risk for obesity in several ways. When a person is sleep deprived, their body is not operating as it should. Sleep deprivation can affect the very biology of your cells and the systems in your brain that regulate appetite and energy levels.

For example, when we are sleep deprived, our body perceives this as a stress and as a need for extra energy (calories) to battle this stress. Our hunger hormones naturally rise in response to this perceived need.

As another example, when you’re sleep deprived, your cells cannot process the sugar you eat as well, so that sugar stays in your blood, raising blood sugar. Your body churns out insulin to get the sugar down, which in turns makes you tired and hungry again. So you end up wanting to eat more!

Most adults require about 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. If you have trouble sleeping, the American Sleep Association has some suggestions that might help you:

  • Maintain a regular sleep routine – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid naps if possible.
  • Keep bedroom dark and cool.
  • Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 5-10 minutes.
  • Don’t watch TV or read in bed.
  • If pets awaken you, keep them out of the bedroom.
  • Exercise regularly; preferable early in the day.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Avoid other substances that might interfere with sleep – cigarettes, alcohol.
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow.
  • If you’re a clock watcher, hide the clock.

Managing your calories is the most important thing you can do to control your weight, but sleep deprivation affects your brain’s ability to make good choices. If you’re tired and hungry, you’re more apt to grab whatever is easiest and handiest. Get your rest, and you may be less likely to reach for unhealthy treats.