Sleep Deprivation and Weight

September 28, 2016

Are you skimping on sleep to get more exercise or chores done? Well we know how bad it feels to be sleep deprived and researchers recently found that it affects our fat cells

Are you waking up early to get in a workout before you head to work, or vice versa and staying up late to get some extra exercise? There have been many studies linking our weight to the amount of time we sleep, and the newest of the bunch found that too little shut-eye plays havoc with our fat cells, which could lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. We all know how cranky and foggy we feel when we haven’t slept enough but now researchers have confirmed that lack of sleep actually influences our hormones, specifically our hunger hormones.

The study is the first to examine the effects of sleep deprivation on fat cells in humans, and researchers found that sleep deprivation increases levels of our hunger hormone, ghrelin, and decreases levels of our satiety hormone, leptin. The researchers also found that insulin is affected by lack of sleep, causing decreases in insulin’s sensitivity, which ultimately can lead to type 2 diabetes.

The takeaway here is to prioritize sleep. Turn the television and computer off at least an hour before you plan to go to bed; the extra stimulation can make it hard to fall asleep. Some other tips include sleeping in complete darkness and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening – for some any caffeine, even if it is first thing in the morning can affect sleep. Pay attention to the messages from your body!

Here are some tips on foods to help us sleep:

Eating complex carbohydrates can help us get to sleep, allowing the uptake of tryptophan, a amino acid, that triggers the body to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that tells the body to slow down and drift to sleep.

Foods high in tryptophan include: dairy products, soy products, seafood, turkey, whole grains, beans, rice, hummus, lentils, hazelnuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Popular evening snacks:
Milk and oatmeal raisin cookies. Healthier options might be better for you, but the sweetness gives you immediate satisfaction and the complex carbohydrates keeps you from being hungry during the night. (But remember to skip the chocolate or chocolate chip cookies as they may contain caffeine.) The milk is relaxing and soothing, but there probably isn't enough tryptophan to have a measurable effect. 

Herbal infusions. These are really not teas, since they do not have tea leaves, but they are called infusions. Chamomile and valerian are commonly used to help with sleep and may help because of their relaxing and calming qualities. You need to be careful, since some plants are stimulating rather than relaxing, and people's bodies react to different plants in different ways, but in general, herbal "teas" are probably okay at night.

Other helpful meals and snacks include, pasta with Parmesan cheese, scrambled eggs and cheese, tofu stir-fry, hummus with whole wheat bread or crackers, tuna salad sandwich, bananas, and chili with beans but not spicy!

Make sure you don’t eat too late and keep the meals before bed light.