One of the major causes of chronic stress in the modern environment is sleep deprivation and disturbance. Sleep deprivation significantly elevates the blood levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline or epinephrine which as I mentioned before – can make you more hungry for fats and sugary foods. There is also some evidence that not getting enough sleep can affect your hunger hormones called leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is thought to make you feel satisfied and full, and ghrelin is the opposite. People who don’t get enough sleep have less leptin and more ghrelin, so they feel more hungry and less satisfied. Not a good recipe for losing weight.
In the 1960s, surveys indicated that Americans were averaging 8.0-9 hours of sleep per night, which fell to 7 hours by 1995. Now more than 30% of adults aged between 30 and 64 years old say they get less than 6 hours of sleep.
There is an association between <7 hours sleep a night of sleep and being overweight.
A meta-analysis of 696 studies of over 600,000 people published in 2008 showed that short sleep duration increased the risk of obesity by 55% in adults and 89% in children. One study indicated that sleeping consistently less than 6 hours a night could triple your risk of obesity.
And it’s not just about sleeping too little. ‘Excessive’ sleeping over 8 hours frequently increased the risk of being overweight by 60%.
So this is about how our sleep amount and quality can make it harder or easier to lose weight. But being overweight can also negatively affect our sleep. Being overweight can cause a condition called sleep apnoea, which is when the airway around the back of your mouth and throat temporarily obstructs whilst you sleep, which causes you to snore and sometimes stop breathing for short periods. This drops the oxygen in your blood and hence your body and brain. So it causes you to wake to get your breath, and also you feel groggy and tired in the morning because you have not actually rested. This ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’ or OSA is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression. So it is really worthwhile knowing if you have it because there is treatment and losing weight is a key part of that.
So what can you do about it?
- Prioritise sleeping 7-8 hours each night
- If you are struggling with sleep quality then have a chat with your doctor. In the meantime do a simple google search for the term “sleep hygiene” and follow the recommendations. For example – Go to bed at a reasonable time when you are tired, get some sunlight in the morning and stop looking at your phones/TV etc before bed
- If you snore at night, have episodes when you stop breathing or wake short of breast and gasping for air, or wake really tired – see your health professional to get a professional sleep study done to make sure you don’t have OSA.