Sleep Away Your Spare Tire!
Sleep Hygiene and its effects on your Being
Quality of sleep is one of the most important and often one of the most overlooked health measures that exists in medicine. It is a well-known fact that a good night's sleep is directly correlated with improved motor function, alertness, and greater ability to focus. Insufficient sleep however, not only detracts from all the benefits associated with a good night sleep, if continued for any length of time, insufficient sleep can usher in a host of issues. These issues range from neurodegenerative diseases, to diabetes and obesity (Drummond & Granet, 2013). One of the most detrimental of these issues, and the one that this paper will be focusing on, is the association between insufficient sleep and weight gain.
Perhaps weight gain does not appear to be one of the most dangerous of disorders listed; especially when compared to Depression, Heart Diseases, Parkinson's and Diabetes (Egger, Binns, Rössner, Sagner, & Egger, 2017, P. 295). It is, however, referred to as such, strictly due to the sheer number of Americans who are living with excess weight. Current statistics show that over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese (National Center for Health Statistics, 2017). Overweight and obese individuals account for nearly 10% of the country's economic burden (Tsai, Williamson, Glick, 2011). Adherence to nutritional interventions can be taxing and unreliable, physical activity for an overweight individual is rarely met with enthusiasm. So, can we at least get overweight individuals to work on their sleep hygiene as a way of improving their health?
It is well-understood that sufficient sleep is extremely important for everyone. For an overweight individual set on rediscovering their health, however, this process can be an integral part of their program. When the human brain is not permitted sufficient amounts of sleep it sends out signals to the body that it is in a state of emergency. This triggers a host of potentially damaging processes both physiologically as well as psychologically. The key factors associated with insufficient sleep and weight gain are: elevated cortisol and ghrelin levels, a decrease in leptin levels and an impaired glucose function (Granet et al., 2013).
When the body is in a stressed state, as it is when it is not receiving the benefits of a restful sleep it secrets the hormone cortisol. As defined by Psychology Today (Bergland, 2013), Cortisol is one of the key hormones involved in the sympathetic (fight or flight) response. When it is present in excess, it signals the body to store its precious energy (fat) and mobilize glucose through gluconeogenesis to prepare for action. This results in elevated blood glucose. If unused by the body for a fight or a flight, this glucose triggers an insulin response and the body reabsorbs this energy into storage as fat. Ghrelin is the "hunger hormone." It gets secreted in the stomach when it is time to eat something. While we sleep, this hormone is greatly depressed, while leptin, the "I'm full" hormone stays present (Egger et al., p. 295). This goes to show the significant shift from what hormones are active and inactive in the human body during a good night's rest, to the ones of a person who is not receiving sufficient sleep.
Hormonal functions contribute in a more proximal manner to a person suffering from excess weight. These hormones can be better regulated through a sleep hygiene intervention. Besides these hormonal factors though, there are some downstream effects associated with insufficient sleep and weight gain. The most notable of these is a lowered cognitive function. This increases irritability, and decreases performance and self-control. All of which will, in turn, cause more stress, which if turned chronic can lead to Anxiety Disorder, Depression and more weight gain. Stress, as we have just discussed will further a sleep-deprived individual's insufficient sleep cycle and weight gain issues, leaving them in an infinite loop of poor health.
So, what's the bottom line?
Sleep! For Heaven's sake- Prioritize your sleep. Here is one of my most used checklists for your use in creating the most enchanting sleep environment for your pleasure:
Egger, G., Binns, A., Rössner, S., Sagner, M., & Egger, G. (2017). Lifestyle medicine: lifestyle, the environment, and preventive medicine in health and disease. London: Elsevier, Academic Press.
National Center for Health Statistics. (2017, May 03). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
Tsai, A. G., Williamson, D. F., & Glick, H. A. (2011). Direct medical cost of overweight and obesity in the USA: a quantitative systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 12(1), 50-61.
Bergland, C. (2013). Cortisol: why “the stress hormone” is public enemy no. 1. Psychology Today. https://www. psychologytoday. com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1. Published January, 22.