Here in the U.S., we all lead very busy lives as though by the ticking of a clock. When it’s time to sleep, several of us struggle to quiet our minds and relax. Our thoughts wander over the events of our day and flit haphazardly through our never ending to-do lists. How many of us have woken up in the middle of the night worrying about our kids or replaying a problem at work?
Unfortunately, this is causing more harm than originally considered. Sleep deprivation is one of the factors which leads to obesity, as well as other health ailments. A recent study published in the SLEEP Journal, indicates sleep deprivation increases appetite and leads to more calorie intake. While increased hours of wakefulness requires the body to use more calories, people with true sleep deprivation end up eating more than the calories expended.
According to the study, sleep deprivation triggers the cannabinoid receptor in the brain. This is the same receptor triggered by cannabis (marijuana), which leads to “the munchies”. The study noted increased appetite in the participants in the afternoon after a night of fitful sleep. People suffering from sleep deprivation tend to be more hungry in the afternoons as their blood sugar plummets. They typically seek out foods that will give the brain a temporary boost, such as salt, fat and sugar. When a person is tired and even exhausted, poor food choices are often the immediate consequence.
Many of our current lifestyles undervalue sleep and encourage long work days including bringing work home – all for the sake of efficiency. Sleep is pushed aside and at times, considered a luxury. It’s not uncommon for some to only sleep four to five hours a night.
So how much sleep do we actually need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for adults, 8-10 for teenagers, 9-11 hours for school aged children (ages 6-13) with preschoolers requiring 10-13 hours. Your family physician will likely tell you 12-15 is required for babies up to a year old and even more for newborns.
Getting enough sleep seems like a daunting task, but don’t worry. We’ve got a few tips to point you in the direction of your pillow:
- Evaluate your bedroom to ensure the ideal temperature, sound and light. Buy black out blinds if you need them
- If you’re caffeine sensitive, stop drinking caffeine by at least 2 p.m
- Be aware that alcohol can wake you up two to three hours into sleep. Even if you don’t wake up completely, your sleep is never deep. Keep your alcohol consumption to one glass of wine for women, up to two glasses for men and see how you feel.
- Turn off the computer, TV, cell phone and any other stimulating devices. Exposure to light promotes wakefulness
- Plan a consistent bed time routine and stick to it. Let the day come to a peaceful end
- Consistent exercise will greatly help you get a good nights sleep and will also help with weight management
If you want to keep your weight in check and reap many other health benefits, rethink your sleeping habits and make a few changes. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.