“A sleep-deprived body will cry famine in the midst of plenty”

Your body can only get energy from sleep and food; if you are sleep deprived you will be fighting hunger. Short sleep (the type that many adults routinely report) increases hunger and appetite, compromises impulse control within the brain, increases food consumption (especially high calorie foods), decreases feelings of food satisfaction after eating, and prevents effective weight loss from dieting.Cravings for sugary foods, carb rich and salty snacks have been shown to rise by 30-40% when sleep was reduced by several hours each night. High calorie foods become more desirable when sleep deprived. Sleep is so important for us - it’s our bodies’ chance to rest, recover, process memories and much more. So try to get at least eight hours each night. 

On average, we have been shown to eat 300-600kcal more per day when having 4.5hours sleep compared to 8.5hours sleep on four consecutive nights. Similar changes have been seen if you give people 6 hours over a 10 day period. This equates to 10-15lbs weight gain per year.  Not only does lack of sleep make us low in energy, but it has been shown to directly affect our hunger hormones.Leptin signals the sense of feeling full/satiated and Ghrelin triggers a strong sensation of hunger (think of a hunger gremlin). Studies have shown that lack of sleep not only increases ghrelin, but it can reduce leptin – thus making us feel less satisfied by the food we eat. The less an individual sleeps, the less energy an individual feels they have and they are more likely to be sedentary.  Reduced sleep has been shown to increase circulating levels of endocannabinoids which stimulate appetite and increase desire to snack. Combine the increase in endocannabinoids, alterations in leptin and ghrelin, increased sedentary behavior, and you have a potent brew of greater calorie intake with lower expenditure; the perfect recipe for weight gain. 

 Plentiful sleep reduces circulating cortisol levels, improves microbiome and calms the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system overworking. Studies have also shown that when given just 5.5 hours of sleep, more than 70% of weight loss came from lean body mass muscle and not fat. Those who got 8.5h sleep saw over 50% of weight loss coming from fat, whilst preserving muscle. 

 Want even more proof that sleep is important? 

  •  Sleeping 6 hours or less per night is associated with a 40% increased risk of developing cancer.

  • When restricted to 4-5 hours of sleep for a week, otherwise fit and healthy individuals became far less receptive to insulin- to the extent of being diagnosed as in a pre-diabetic state of hyperglycemia.Chronic sleep deprivation is now recognised as one of the main contributors to escalation of Type 2 Diabetes in first world countries.

  • When the clocks go back in autumn and we gain an hour of sleep, the rate of heart attacks recorded plummet the next day. A similar rise and fall relationship can be seen with the number of traffic accidents.Inspring when we lose an hour of sleep, heart attack rates spike the following day.

  • After just one week of subtly reduced sleep (6 hours per night), the activity of 711 genes was found to be distorted in otherwise healthy young men (relative to the genetic activity of those very same individuals when they obtaining 8.5h sleep for a week). The genes that were increased were all linked to chronic inflammation, cellular stress, and various factors that cause cardiovascular disease. The genes turned down or switched off were all involved in maintaining metabolism and optimal immune responses.Short sleep duration was also seen to disrupt the activity of genes regulating cholesterol. In particular, a lack of sleep will result in a drop in HDL (High Density Lipoprotein aka- the ‘good one’)- a profile directly linked to heart disease.

Want to get better sleep?

·     Magnesiumis an electrolyte, which is integral to general health and bodily functions. It can help to balance the nervous system; it has a calming effect, which can help you relax and unwind. Sources; Nuts, seeds and beans, fish, bananas, leafy greens, dark chocolate, whole grains, or you can take a supplement (oral OR transdermal spray).

·     Tryptophanis an amino acid and is a precursor to serotonin. Among other functions, Serotonin is thought to support healthy sleep and a stabilise mood. Good sources of tryptophan – Cheese, pineapple, nuts and seeds, milk, turkey, eggs, tofu, salmon, bananas. 

·     The process of your body cooling down encourages us to go to sleep. Why not try a hot bath (or shower if you don’t like baths!). As your body begins to cool down, you will feel ready for sleep. 

·     Exercise has a multitude of benefits, but it can also affect out sleep quality and quantity. So try adding exercise in daily to boost sleep. 

·     Exposure to light from electronic screens 2-4 hours before bed, has been shown to affect sleep onset. If you struggle to get to sleep, try giving yourself a screen ‘curfew’. Getback to reading an oldfashioned paper book to help you wind down. 

Joanna Hollington