If you’re like many Americans, you sleep about an half hour less than you should each night. This is what’s called sleep debt -- and this debt is usually made up on the weekends by sleeping in. It’s basically a piggy bank right? You take some out, you put some back in. So what’s the issue with this? Well, huge amounts of research over the past several years have shown that sleep debt is not only harmful to overall health, it’s downright dangerous.
The Endocrine Society recently published findings that show losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep during weekdays can lead to obesity (large excess body fat) and diabetes (extreme insulin resistance). In fact the study found that after a year of slight sleep deprivation, for every 30 minutes of sleep lost, the risk for obesity increased 17% and insulin resistance (how diabetic your metabolism is looking) increased by 39%! Yes, you read that right--losing just an half hour of sleep dramatically increases your risk for two major metabolic diseases.
You might be wondering why this would happen. Well, one huge factor is hormones. Many people have heard of testosterone and estrogen (more on these in a later post) but few have come across ghrelin, leptin, insulin, interleukin 6, growth hormone and cortisol--but these are just some of the additional hormones affected by sleep. Several studies reveal unfavorable effects on these hormones when people lose part of a night’s sleep: hunger hormones increase, stress hormones increase, and people crave calorically-dense food. Even worse, most calorically-dense food in the Standard American Diet, or SAD, isn’t nutritionally-dense.
Since you’re interested in increasing your overall health and working to prevent obesity and insulin resistance, make sure to get adequate sleep!...Yeah yeah, you’ve heard that over and over, but the question is how? First, having a consistent sleep time and wake time is key so your circadian rhythm is on point. It can take some time to get it down, but making a committment to sleep at a certain time will add a ton of energy for you the following day. Secondly, avoiding bright lights and particularly blue light (the light coming off of your phone, tablet, and computer screens which suppress melatonin production, the primary signal that makes us sleep!) one to two hours before bed. This will get you in a sleepy mood. Finally, cooling your body temperature down with a lukewarm or cold shower will rev all your systems down. Better yet, get into a sauna or hot tub for 5, 10, or 15 minutes, get out and wait a few minutes for your body to cool down and then take a cold shower. This will have a multiplied effect and really get you feeling sleepy.
There are more tips for getting to sleep out there, but try one of these at a time and let us know how it goes folks!
In Excellent Health,
Garrett & Luc