You hear all the time about how nutrition and food choices can affect your health – from risk for chronic disease, to weight management and metabolism, to physical energy and an overall feeling of well-being. With so much focus on what we eat, it’s easy to forget about other aspects of lifestyle that can affect your wellness.
One huge piece of that puzzle is sleep and how much you get (or don’t get). When life gets busy, sleep is often the first to go – however, consistently shorting ourselves on sleep hours can affect your metabolism, eating habits, weight, and overall health.
In this post we’re taking a break from chatting about food and getting into how sleep is related to your overall health and wellness!
Sleep and Metabolism
- Sleep occurs in cycles of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM).
- The first half of sleep is mostly NREM cycles, and the second half is mostly REM cycles.
- During NREM cycles, metabolism is slowed down to help repair cellular damage. This stage of sleep is also related higher insulin resistance.
- Studies have shown that during the REM cycle (second half of sleep) our bodies have increased use of glucose & metabolic activity. If sleep is cut short, this allows less time for that revved-up metabolic activity.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
- Several studies have been done showing that people who average less sleep over the long term end up gaining more weight than those who average more sleep
- Decreased sleep duration has also been associated with lower energy expenditure during the day (here)
- One study followed women over 16 years and found that women averaging 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night gained more weight overall than women sleeping an average of 7 hours per night
- Why does less sleep = more weight?
- One key contributor may be altered eating behaviour as a result of inadequate sleep, which can lead to increased intake of calories, particularly carbohydrates
- Insufficient sleep also leads to delayed circadian timing which changes circadian timing of meals, which may contribute to altered metabolism related to inadequate sleep
Reduce Diabetes Risk
- Not getting enough quality sleep can increase risk for diabetes. In addition to the potential for added weight gain, insufficient sleep alone has been associated with risk factors for diabetes – poor glucose tolerance and poor insulin sensitivity, both of which raise blood sugar levels
- Obstructive sleep apnea has been associated with diabetes (here, here), and consistent treatment with CPAP to improve sleep quality can also improve glucose tolerance & improves insulin sensitivity (here).
- Several studies have also shown that sleep deprivation is associated with lower glucose tolerance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- The amount of sleep you get consistently directly affects your hormone balance, which plays a key role in appetite, hunger, and satiety
- Your appetite center is located in the hypothalamus area of the brain and influenced by the hormones leptin (appetite suppressing) and ghrelin (hunger promoting)
- The amount and duration of REM sleep may influence metabolism through production of satiety/hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin (here)
- Prolonged sleep times actually promote increases in leptin that stay elevated
- On the other hand, decreased leptin levels lead to increases in ghrelin, which in turn make ramp up your appetite, hunger, and cravings (here)