Not getting enough sleep makes you cranky and sluggish — we all know that. But we now also have sufficient evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation could promote obesity.
This may explain why people afflicted with sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea tend to gain weight rapidly. Sleep apnoea and obesity are co-related — sleep apnoea causes sleep deprivation and consequently, the victim becomes lethargic and less active.
Obesity causes sleep apnoea: The outcome of less exercise is weight gain often resulting in obesity and obesity in turn promotes sleep apnoea.
A study conducted recently established a clear link between obesity and the number of hours we sleep at night though there was no evidence associating obesity to the other factors included in the study such as physical activity, depression and age.
These findings may have a lot to do with the two hormones — leptin, which suppresses appetite and ghrelin, which increases food intake and is believed to have a hand in the regulation of body weight in the long run.
And lack of sleep lowers the levels of leptin and raises levels of ghrelin.
Studies conducted have shown that people who slept only four hours a night for two nights had an 18 percent reduction in leptin and a 28 percent increase in ghrelin and that people choose to eat more sweets and starchy foods over fruits, vegetables or dairy products when sleep is cut short — possibly because since the brain is fuelled by glucose it tends to seek simple carbohydrates when distressed by lack of sleep.
An often ignored but equally important factor is ‘when’ we sleep. Nature intended us to be active during the day and to sleep at night. However, at times, people are impelled to throw off their internal timepiece to suit the requirements of their lifestyle or jobs which may include working in the nights or to frequently travel across time zones. Result? Our bodies get confused and one of the consequences could be weight gain.
An often ignored but equally important factor is ‘when’ we sleep. Nature intended us to be active during the day and to sleep at night.
However, defying this rule makes our bodies get confused and one of the consequences could be weight gain.
Another reason why lack of sleep could precipitate weight gain is because inadequate sleep interferes with the body’s ability to deal with carbohydrates, which could lead to higher insulin levels and therefore greater body fat storage. Inadequate sleep also reduces levels of growth hormones, which controls the body’s proportion of fat and muscles.
The growth hormone helps burn fat and store more muscle thus helping in weight loss. If its levels reduce, it may lead to obesity in an individual. Apart from its effect on weight, lack of sleep can increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease. It also increases the levels of stress hormone cortisol, which in turn causes excessive hunger and water retention thus increasing body weight.
Combat wakefulness: A cup of hot milk at night helps in duce sleep as it contains tryplophan (an amino acid), which helps in in creasing the serotomin levels in the brain. Serotomin is known to be a calming factor.
Usually exercise is better for sleep than no exer cise at all but it should be done in the morning or late after noon. If done after dinner (like a brisk walk) then it might keep you awake at night as it pumps in enough adrenaline to keep you ac tive and awake.
A warm water bath before going to bed relaxes the nerves and helps induce sleep.
So, if you’re gaining weight that you can’t account for, you might want to consider sleeping over it!
(Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre).
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