The Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study that identified factors that support weight gain prevention. They are: food choices, sleep, watching less TV, and exercise. Today I want to shed some light on how sleep impacts weight gain. Many of my patients are surprised to learn that sleep can impact weight. One of the ways that weight and sleep are connected has to do with the time that you eat your last meal and the time you go to sleep. It takes your digestive tract about 3-4 hours to digest your food. When you eat dinner late and go to sleep soon after you eat, you create an equation for weight gain. Since you’re not using the fuel from food while you sleep, your body decides to store the fuel as fat thus causing your weight to increase. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this factor: finish eating and snacking 3-4 hours before you go to bed!
Another way that sleep impacts weight is through affecting the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Gherlin stimulates wanting to eat (hunger) and leptin stimulates satiety (fullness). When high levels of leptin are circulating in the blood it signals to the brain that we feel full. When we have low levels of leptin circulating then we feel hungry and gherlin signals us to eat. Research has shown that when people suffer from too little sleep their leptin levels are lower, resulting in an increase in gherlin levels and appetite. Too much gherlin causes over eating.
In 2008, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted a questionnaire that found that 40% of participants 40-59 years of age were getting too little sleep. This short amount of sleep could be a contributing factor in the inability to lose weight. It is important to know that there is a difference between the amount of sleep you need to get by in a day to function and the adequate amount of sleep needed to maintain overall health and wellbeing. Many patients report they need only 4-5 hours of sleep to function each day yet an adequate amount of sleep for adult is generally 7-9 hours nightly.
Since sleep is the time when your body is restored and the cells are able to regenerate, getting ready for the next day’s activities, it is an important factor not only in weight loss but also for your ability to think clearly and enjoy an energetic, healthy life!
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Dr. Dae is a Naturopathic Physician who practices in the Washington DC metro area treats the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.