How well do you sleep? Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the keys to good health. The more we learn about sleep, the more we realise it may be important in maintaining a healthy weight. Research has shown an association between sleep and obesity, with a lack of sleep having a reported 15-50% increased risk of obesity.
Having a routine, including a regular bedtime and wake up time, can be the difference between relying on coffee to get through your day, and springing out of bed with little effort each morning.
Here are a few ways that poor sleep can affect your weight and your health:
- You may be too tired to exercise
- You may feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything – feeling stressed, under pressure and overworked
- Then there’s the cortisol spike that comes from too little sleep. This stress hormone signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours.
- Lack of sleep dulls the brain’s frontal lobe the locus of decision-making and impulse control. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions.
- When you’re tired, your brain’s reward centres rev up, looking for something that feels good. So you will have a harder time resisting food cravings.
- You’re more likely to reach for sweet foods and foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and fat to get an extra “hit” of energy, especially late in the day.
- You’re also more likely to eat bigger portions of food as your “hungry hormones” Leptin and ghrelin are influenced by your sleep patterns. Ghrelin signals your brain that it’s time to eat. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body makes more ghrelin. Leptin cues your brain when you’re full. When you’re not getting enough sleep, leptin levels plummet, signalling your brain to eat more food.
- Sleep deprivation also affects your body’s ability to process insulin — the hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy. Research has found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30% in sleep-deprived subjects!
Tips for better sleep
- Have a routine bedtime. Plan this in advance to increase your chances of getting 7-9 hours sleep.
- Similarly, have a routine wake up time.
- Blue light from screens (computers, tablets, phones and TV’s) has been shown to suppress the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, so it’s best to limit (best to switch off completely) 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Sleeping with your phone next to you can allow for disturbances through the night. Try setting your phone to “Do Not Disturb” when you go to bed.
- Get comfortable on a mattress suited to your sleep needs. Not everyone likes a soft mattress!
- If pain stops you from sleeping make an appointment with your GP, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to resolve the pain ASAP
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes.
- Avoid napping during the day if possible
- Get some sunlight during the day
- Exercise daily
- Don’t go to bed hungry or too full (ideally 2-3 hours after you last ate)
- Reduce fluids later in the evening to avoid mid-night toilet breaks