Did you know that poor sleep significantly affects insulin activity and your resting metabolic rate? Burning the candle at both ends, tossing and turning during the night or, even worse, insomnia, can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Insomnia is the inability to sleep and there are many reasons people may suffer with it. Here are a few common causes:
- poor sleep habits, lack of bedtime routine
- depression or anxiety
- lack of exercise
- chronic illness
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin works like a transporter, carrying glucose into the cells which is then used for energy production. If the cells can’t get their sugar fix, they become starved (this is why you crave carbs). The glucose stays in the blood where it can cause a lot of inflammation and damage to organs such as the eyes or even the limbs where it can result in diabetic-induced ulcers and amputation.
How does sleep deprivation lead to weight gain and diabetes?
Cortisol does many things in the body and is one of our stress hormones. It is supposed to be at its lowest at night, helping us drift off into a deep and blissful sleep. It then begins to rise in the early hours of the morning to wake us up. But, if you are chronically stressed, your cortisol can go on a rollercoaster ride that significantly affects your ability to sleep.
High cortisol levels not only keep you awake at night, they also stimulate the production of blood glucose, because we need the energy to deal with the stress. Our bodies quickly become insulin resistant, even after only 24 hours of sleep deprivation.
Other consequences of sleep deprivation include the production of inflammatory molecules and free fatty acids that accumulate in your adipose (or fat) tissue. Also, high cortisol-induced sleep deprivation leads to cravings for fatty foods and carbohydrates (chocolate anyone?) by the same mechanisms, leading to further weight gain.
Who feels like exercising when they are exhausted? I would think not many people, and the science backs this up. Sleep deprivation typically results in more sedentary behaviour, also leading to weight gain.
It is important to note that too much sleep can be just as bad for you according to the research.
So, what is the magic number of hours of sleep to aim for? Those who get less than six hours or more than nine hours per night have a much higher risk of central adiposity (that is fat around the middle) than those who get between six and nine hours.
BUT there is some good news! Studies have shown that you can turn this all around in only nine days.
Here are some top sleep tips for you:
- exercise for 20-30 minutes daily (preferably in the middle of the day, in the sun!)
- avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea and chocolate after 3 pm (or earlier if you are sensitive)
- use dim lighting at night (salt lamps are great for this) to avoid the blue light which messes with your circadian rhythm. Even better, invest in a decent pair of blue-light-blocker glasses (especially if you are looking at a screen).
- switch off your screens at least an hour before bed or wear the abovementioned glasses
- don’t eat after 7 pm so your body can do its night shift work (rest and repair) instead of digesting that late night snack and keeping you awake
- meditate for 5-10 minutes before bed or have a warm (not hot) Epsom salts bath
- switch off your phone and your wi-fi – microwave radiation is not your friend
- establish a regular bedtime, wake time and sleep routine and stick to it
- if you want to go ‘next level’ – and this is AMAZING for your health – watch the sunrise AND the sunset.
Sleep is THE most important thing when it comes to your health. Remember, there is no magic pill so it’s up to you to make the changes you need to be the best version of yourself. Make a booking today to get the support you need.
Association of sleep disturbances with obesity, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2018.04.001
Role of Sex and the Environment in Moderating Weight Gain Due to Inadequate Sleep. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-017-0290-7
Weight gain in first-semester university students: Positive sleep and diet practices associated with protective effects. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.05.009
Is exercise a viable therapeutic intervention to mitigate mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin resistance induced by sleep loss? https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2017.01.001