As a baker/pastry cook I work unusual hours i.e. 3am-11am, and boy has it had an impact on my body!
Since I started to working these hours almost 3 years ago my average hours of sleep a night have been 4.5-5 and my weight has crept up from about 61kg to 67kg. So what does sleep have to do with my weight? Turns out a lot more than I realised.
Getting less than 7.5 hours of sleep per night CAN result in the following problems
- Glucose uptake – Studies have shown that just a week of sleep deprivation can cause significant alterations in glucose tolerance (i.e. how readily your body’s cells can recognize glucose in your blood and pull it into the cells of the body where it will fuel activity). Impaired glucose tolerance can make you more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When your body doesn’t uptake glucose into the cell efficiently, you feel tired and hungry more often than you should, which makes you reach for more food, resulting in a calorie surplus. And remember, your body is already not using energy, calories, and glucose well. So guess what happens to those excess calories? That’s right. They get stored away, usually right on your butt, thighs, and belly.
- Hormones – Sleep deprivation has been shown to lower leptin (an appetite-suppressing hormone produced by fat cells, which is normally produced in abundance at night) and increase ghrelin, (a hormone released by the stomach that stimulates hunger, which is also secreted at night but normally in lesser amounts). Research subjects were found to have an increased sense of hunger and tended to reach for carbohydrate-dense, sweet, and salty foods when sleep deprived. In studies on individuals who were sleep deprived (four hours of sleep per night), evening cortisol levels were elevated and the levels decreased six times slower when compared to control subjects. These elevations in cortisol further increase the likelihood of developing diabetes and obesity, and the body holding fat around the abdomen.
- The brain – Sleep deprivation affects our cognitive skills. Studies have shown that chronic and acute sleep deprivation will negatively impact learning and thinking. Attention, alertness, reaction time, memory, reasoning skills, and creative thinking all suffer when we don’t get enough sleep – both acutely and chronically.
- Immune system – Whenever you chronically skimp on sleep, the inflammatory state is unbalanced. Blood levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker used by medical professionals to predict the risk of heart disease and diagnose general inflammation, go up when sleep is too short for a prolonged period of time. This inflammatory state resulting from a lack of sleep has been shown to do nothing to support the immune system, only to impede it’s function, and put the body at risk for infection, chronic diseases, and cancer.
So, sleep is just as important as diet and exercise if you wish to live a healthy, vitality filled life. Now I just have to get this elusive sleep!
The info in this post is an excerpt from Breaking Muscle, to see the full article click here.