Less sleep, more fat
This month’s story sounds a bit like a contradiction of the ‘move it and lose it’ terms. But lack of sleep causes more problems than just feeling tired the next day. Although the connection has been suspected for some time, several studies have now shown a connection between lack of sleep and increases in body weight. This has been shown to occur early in life, with children as young as five or six having a greater risk of becoming overweight later in life if they sleep less than seven hours a night on a regular basis.
One reason for this might be obvious: The longer you are awake, the more time you have to eat. And given that this time is not likely to be spent being active, the extra energy intake will quickly develop into extra body weight.
More detailed research however has also shown that certain hunger hormones, particularly one called leptin, are increased with extra waking hours. It’s proposed that this goes back to evolution when longer periods of wakefulness were associated with getting more food in lean times. Irrespective of the cause it seems sleep is important – and we’re getting less and less of it with our busy modern lifestyles.
Many of us have trouble sleeping from time to time, especially when we are stressed or have worries. Insomnia is a symptom not a disease. Reducing anxiety and sticking to a day–night routine can improve sleep quality. Suggestions include:
- Get your bedroom right, it should be cool, dark and quiet. And limit activities to sleeping and sex. No television or dealing with the day’s emails on your laptop.
- Take time to unwind before bed – whatever it takes: a warm bath, soft music, meditating, a good book. No late night news or sitcoms.
- Cut down on drinking. Yes a nightcap can be relaxing. It may even help you nod off. But it will more likely produce fragmented, fitful sleep than sweet dreams and sound sleep.
- Avoid tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks after four in the afternoon. That includes drinks with guarana.
- No big meals late at night. Give your full stomach the good two hours it needs to digest food before you dream of turning in.
Dr Garry Egger aka Prof Trim
– Click for more information on Professor Trim.