In observance of National Sleep Awareness Week, March 8-14, TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), offers a reminder that studies show a link between too few hours of sleep and increased body weight in both adults and children.
“Our society is an insomniac, underslept society, perhaps because of economic stress, chaotic lifestyles, or sedentary time spent with modern media, such as the Internet or cable TV,” says Nicholas “Dr. Nick” Yphantides, M.D., M.P.H., medical spokesperson for TOPS. “Sleep is an afterthought to many of us.”
Dr. Nick points out that insomnia often leads to late-night eating binges, which are proven to be disruptive to the digestive cycle and result in weight gain. “Falling asleep with a full stomach means you are less likely to eat breakfast, which is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “Every study of successful long-term weight loss shows that the eating plan includes a healthy breakfast.”
While it’s not easy to break old habits, Dr. Nick notes that the more resistant people are to saying “lights out” the more they have to deal with the consequences the next day. For example, when fatigue sets in from late-night activity, there is less desire to engage in exercise the next day, an essential element of weight control.
Lack of sleep also affects the way the body processes and stores food and alters hormones that affect the appetite. “Physiologically, when a body is not rested, it kicks into survival mode,” he says. “Stress hormones are generated, resulting in less production of appetite-suppressing leptin. Instead, more ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, is generated.” In addition, Dr. Nick notes, there is a suspected association with insulin, which has an impact on food going into storage in the body.
The importance of sleep cannot be overestimated. More than just resulting in fatigue and affecting daily activities, lack of sleep can impact the immune system, memory recall, hypertension, and other serious problems.
“I don’t believe everyone needs seven hours or another specific number, but I do believe in adequate sleep. It fits into the larger category of being responsive to what the body needs,” Dr. Nick says. “Part of the evidence of the restorative nature of sleep points out that when we are ill, we need more of it, and not less or the same.”
To improve your success for a restful night, consider the following:
• Aim to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes each day and no later than three hours before bedtime.
• When tired enough to seek coffee and energy drinks, take a short, half-hour nap instead.
• Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, even on weekends.
• Keep bedrooms cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Consider a sound machine or small fan for white noise and an eye mask to block out light.
• Follow a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book, engaging in light stretching, or taking a bath.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), a non-profit weight-loss education and support organization, was established more than 62 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit www.tops.org or call 800-932-8677.