Getting enough sleep is important for improving cognition, enhancing memory and better immunity but has many other benefits that are not that well known such as helping you to maintain a healthy weight, and protecting against chronic disease such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, obesity and cardiovascular disease1.
Not much is understood about the exact physiology of sleeping, yet the importance of good sleep is unquestionable. During sleep free radicals and other toxic particles are removed from the brain reducing damage to neurons. Experts believe that we need between 7-9hrs depending on the individual, and we sleep in cycles so it is not just the amount of sleep that is important but the timing of sleep within our circadian rhythm.
Most New Zealander’s are getting 20% less sleep on average than we did 40 years ago, with 6.5hrs being the norm for most working adults. What’s more, the quality of our sleep is worse than ever, up to 40% of adults experienced insomnia and over 20% of people were prescribed sleeping pills in 2012.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps us regulate our sleep wake cycle and it is dependent on receiving sufficient natural light during the day. “To set the timing of your wake rhythm, your brain wants to coordinate the timing of your wake signal to daytime. It does this by measuring the intensity and hue of light entering the eye” Dan Pardi
This is what happens to your rhythm when you check your phone before bed
The effects of chronic sleep deprivation on weight
Poor sleep or chronic sleep deprivation such as 4hrs or less nightly will increase your risk of obesity up to 50%. Exactly how lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight is due to an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity (your stress response) which affects insulin response and the behaviour of leptin and grelin which are hormones that can control and influence body metabolism. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain that you are full, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin1. Meaning that insufficient sleep promotes hunger and appetite, which can cause excessive food intake usually poorly chosen quick calorie dense foods.
Tips for getting better sleep3
- Prioritise sleep and give it as much thought as you would an exercise programme, have clear goals for how much sleep you need everyday and when you need to be in bed in order to get this
- Create a consistent sleep routine, go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays,
- Get bright light exposure first thing in the morning and get outside during the day to stimulate melatonin release
- Avoid using technology right before bed
- Mindful practices before bed to manage anxiety and stress
- Regular exercise
If you are having trouble falling asleep or wake during the night unable to go back to sleep, Vitalise Health can help you. Contact us today.
1. Banks, S., & Dinges, D. F. (2007). Behavioral and physiological consequences of sleep restriction. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3(5), 519–528.
2. Ruxton,C. (Feb/Mar, 2015)Does sleep affect weight management? Complete Nutrition, 15 (1). Retrieved from http://www.nutritional-insight.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Complete-Nutrition_Sleep_Weight_2015.pdf
3. Pardi, D. (Sept, 2014). How much sleep do you need? Retrieved from http://chriskresser.com/how-much-sleep-do-you-need