Let’s Talk about Sleep: Is there a relationship with weight?

Sleep and weight

Sleep plays a key role in your health. One study linked insufficient sleep to an increased risk of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults. Other studies conclude that getting less than 7–8 hours per night increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of 8 hours of sleep per night for adults, but the average person falls short of the mark. Lack of sleep is defined as six hours or fewer.

What does getting enough sleep have to do with our appetite and metabolism?

Sleep loss creates a hormone imbalance in the body that has been associated with overeating and weight gain.

Leptin and ghrelin are hormones that regulate appetite, and their production is altered when we aren’t getting enough sleep resulting in increased feelings of hunger. Ghrelin is produced by our gut and increases appetite by signaling to the brain.

Leptin is produced by fat cells and in the contrast to ghrelin, increases the feeling of fullness, also known as satiety.

Sleep deprivation can increase ghrelin and decrease leptin, which results in increased hunger and less sensation of fullness. Sleep deprivation is also associated with growth hormone deficiency and elevated cortisol levels, both of which have been linked to obesity. Additionally, not enough sleep can decrease awareness, our problem solving and decision-making capacity,  can increase stress hormones, and contribute to less healthier food choices. Research has found that lack of sleep can increase your affinity for foods that are high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat.When we are feeling tired, we are also less likely to stick to our plans and goals.

What Sleep Concerns Are Commonly associated with Overweight and Obesity?

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): OSA is a sleep disorder in which the airway partially of fully collapses, causing loud snoring and breathing issues at night. OSA is seven times more common in individuals affected by obesity and a 5-10% weight reduction can dramatically improve symptoms.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): GERD is a chronic condition in which the contents of the stomach “refluxes” back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms such as heartburn, chest tightness, belching. Obesity is a risk factor for GERD. Symptoms of GERD are often worsened by lying down leading to disturbed or interrupted sleep when these occur overnight.
  • Depression: Obesity and depression are associated a reciprocal manner. In other terms, obesity can intensify or cause depression and simultaneously depression can lead to weight gain. Sleep deprivation and insomnia is present in about 75% of persons with depression further worsening the effect on weight and health.
  • Asthma: Asthma is a respiratory condition involving, in simple terms, inflammation of the airway. Often times, asthma symptoms occur at night leading to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep . Asthma is more common in persons affected by excess weight.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA): OA is a disorder of the joint(s) defined by wearing down of cartilage. Overweight and obesity are identified as causing OA because of the mechanical strain weight places on joints. OA affects sleep and has been described as a cyclical relationship associated with pain, distrupted sleep and worsening depression.

Does that mean that if I sleep, I’ll lose weight?

Well, biology and our bodies are not linear equations and moderation is key. Too little or too much sleep are both associated with increased disease risk. The recommended amount for adults is 7-9hours of sleep per night.

How can we do it?

  • Consistency is key! Try to wake up and sleep at the same time every day.
  • Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and comfortable.
  • No screen time! Put away electronic devices at least 60min before bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Create calming bedtime rituals such as breathing, reading a book, or listening to soothing music.

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