Late nights making you fat


Sleep, Fat

20 August 2011: The experts advise you to sleep off those extra kilos. Does it get any easier than that? If you think this is too good to be true, read on as we back up the claims with solid scientific facts.


The link between sleep and weight

Sleep deprivation plays havoc with the hormones. The hormone Ghrelin is responsible for hunger pangs while another hormone, Leptin, tells your brain when it’s time to stop. When you don’t get enough shut-eye, your Ghrelin levels increase and Leptin levels decrease. The result - an increased craving for food and a feeling of not being satiated despite eating more than you normally do!


Secondly, the growth hormone is secreted, for the most part, during the first round of sleep or the slow-wave sleep. This hormone plays a very important role in body weight as it controls the body’s proportion of muscle and fat. When you don’t get proper sleep, you secrete less of this hormone. In fact, just one week of sleep deprivation reduces the production of the growth hormone significantly. And low levels of growth hormone equal more fat. Also, as we age, the time we spend in deep sleep reduces, which translates to reduced growth hormone production. Add to that reduced hours of sleep and you significantly increase your chances of weight gain.


Also, a good restful sleep has the ability to de-stress the mind and body. Lack of sleep tends to cause physical stress. This leads to excessive production of the stress hormone Cortisol, which in turn stimulates the production of glucose in excess. And this little extra is then converted into fat.


Sleep deprivation puts your body in starvation mode

Sleep deprived people tend to opt for high calorie sweets, salty and starchy foods to snack on. That’s because sleep deprivation stimulates the cells to shout out for more food. Want to beat those hunger pangs? Go to bed!


Sleep deprivation and sluggishness go hand in hand

When you sleep less, you are low on energy and as a result you are less likely to be physically active. In fact, even small non-exercise related activities like standing instead of sitting or simply fidgeting are significantly reduced. As a result you burn fewer calories. Also when the body senses low energy levels, it reacts by hoarding calories as fat, thereby making weight loss difficult.


How many hours of sleep do I need?

If you are unsure how many hours you need, experiment, when you have the luxury to, by sleeping as much as you want for four nights in a row. Record how many hours you sleep on the fourth night. The hours of sleep you received that night will be the approximate number of hours you should try to get every night. That’s because by the fourth night your body is refreshed and your body clock will reach its natural rhythm.


What if I sleep less to exercise more?

The American Thoracic Society International Conference recently held in San Diego, Californiareported the following in a study - Women who don’t get much sleep, up to five hours each night, are much more likely to have put on 33 lbs (15 kilos) over a 16 year period. This is 30 per cent more likely when compared to the women who managed to get seven hours sleep each night.


1. What surprised the researchers was that sleeping patterns had a much greater influence on women’s long-term weight than eating habits or physical activity.

2. At the start of the study, the women who slept up to five hours a night weighed 5.4 pounds more than those who got seven hours or more. They also put on 1.6 pounds more each year than the good sleepers.

3. The 1.6 pounds extra per year may not sound like much, but multiply this number by ten and you have a sizeable weight gap. Imagine what the difference would be over 20 or 30 years!

4. However, having the best sleep every night and a terrible diet will not make you lose weight. Make sure that your daily food intake includes 25-30 per cent protein, 45-55 per cent complex carbohydrates, 15-20 per cent essential fatty acids. Secondly, make sure you are on an effective exercise program, 4-5 times a week.


For a good night’s sleep

Don’t go to bed hungry : While this does not mean that you should have a heavy snack at bedtime, it does suggest that a light snack, rich in sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, can help.


Exercise at least three hours before bedtime : Physical activity contributes to the body’s need for sleep. But exercising too close to bedtime can actually prevent sleep because exercise raises the body’s metabolism and alertness level.


Take a warm bath an hour before bedtime : Your body temperature will slowly drop after you get out of the tub making you feel tired.


Keep your days active : Resist the temptation of nap so that your body will be ready for a restful sleep at night.



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