If You Snooze, You Lose!
Newsstands and libraries, to beauty salons and barber shops, to corporate firm lobbies and coffee shops are replete with publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to New York Times and USA Today all citing at some point or another, sleep deprivation as America’s latest silent epidemic.
There’s even a segment of the population that may go to bed early and they think they’re getting a good night’s rest, but disruptions in their breathing pattern prevents them from getting deep sleep. This condition is known as sleep apnea, where eight hours of disrupted sleep can leave you feeling like you’ve only had four.
Now intellectually we know that NOT getting enough sleep can adversely affect us in many ways: problem solving skills, written and verbal communication skills, learning and memory skills, and motor skills. This can be a huge problem, especially in the workplace because it leads to impaired judgment, diminished productivity and creativity, slower reaction times, and inability to focus and concentrate.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to levels of sleepiness that can affect your social and family life. This type of sleepiness can also be hazardous as it can lead to inattention, poor decision-making, and falling asleep while driving (which accounts for about one-sixth of all accidents).
But did you know that sleep deprivation in its many forms can also lead to weight gain? I can hear my Different Strokes fans saying “Whatchu-talkin’-bout Robert!?!” Yep, Dr. David Rapoport, associate professor and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City says the hormones leptin and ghrelin can influence our appetite and recent research studies show that production of both may be influenced by how much or how little we sleep.
So what does ghrelin and leptin have to do with me gaining weight? Well, ever experience a sleepless night, and then the next day you felt ravenous? I mean, no matter what you ate or when you ate it, you never felt full or satisfied? Then you’ve experienced these hormones at work.
Ghrelin (produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite) and leptin (produced in the fat cells, notifies the brain when you’re full) both act as a checks and balance system to control feelings of hunger and fullness according to Michael Breus, PhD, a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta.
Breus also points out that when you don’t get enough sleep, it drives ghrelin levels up, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food. Sleep deprivation also causes leptin levels to decrease, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat.
This is a very dangerous combination because you’ll continue to eat and your brain doesn’t get the signal that you’re actually full…even after you’ve waited the standard 20 minutes. And over time, these additional calories will show up in unwanted and unsightly places.
There’s still more work to be done in this area. Many doctors think that our environment, dietary habits, exercise patterns, daily stress levels, and our genetics may also influence the production of ghrelin and leptin, as well as our response to them.
While researchers continue to look as this in more detail, one thing is for sure: if you’re looking to lose weight, getting a few extra hours of sleep each night can help.
You’ll likely have more energy and significantly fewer cravings for sweets and other high carbohydrate snacks and drinks to keep you awake – which means you can actually lose weight because you’re taking in less empty calories. You’ll be more focused, productive, and creative at work and have more energy to spend quality time with your family or loved ones being at home. Healthier and happier!
So, if you’re tempted to stay up late surfing channels, knowing you have to get up early; and if weight loss is your goal, do yourself a favor: turn off the TV and go get in the bed and snooze, it may be just the thing you need in order to get you to lose…weight that is.
Robert Selders, Jr. is a certified personal trainer, author, speaker, and the owner of 3Q Fitness Studio in Garland, TX. Learn more about how you can receive a free week of personal training to test drive his exercise and nutrition programs that are guaranteed to get you the results you want or your money back at www.3QFitness.com.