Need To Drop Some Weight? Try Sleeping!

This could truly be the ‘dream diet’ (no pun intended). This might seem like a very wild idea, but the good news is that there is medical evidence to validate the thought. Medical research provides links to sleep and weight by stating that length and quality of sleep orchestrates hormonal functions that modulate one’s appetite.

Sleep is our body’s natural way of recuperating from the day’s stresses and beats all spa treatments hands down when it comes to rejuvenating our body functions and hormonal activities. It is therefore a well-established fact that sleep plays a definite role in the way we function, but its connection with appetite is fairly recent. It has been found that hormones leptin and ghrelin influence our appetite and studies show that production of both may be influenced by how much or how little we sleep.

Leptin and ghrelin have an interesting working relationship, somewhat like ‘checks and balances”. Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and induces the urge to eat. Leptin on the other hand, is present in fat cells and sends out signals to the brain when you are full; shutting down ghrelin production and making you to stop eating. Lack of sleep causes leptin levels to plummet, thereby maintaining the urge to keep eating even when full. Simultaneously, ghrelin levels keep rising, thus constantly increasing appetite and causing over eating.

In a Stanford study, the correlation between leptin and ghrelin came to light. In this study, about 1000 volunteers reported their sleep hours and doctors tabulated this against their hormone levels and weight. The result showed that individuals sleeping for less than eight hours had lower levels of leptin, higher levels of ghrelin and increased body fat. This study was a joint project between Stanford and the University of Wisconsin.

In a more recent study, the correlation between sleep apnea and weight gain was studied. Sleep apnea is characterised by gasping of breath due to intermittent cessation of breathing during sleep. This is a medical condition that hampers restful sleep leading to excessive sleepiness during the day, sap in energy levels and therefore weight gain.

According to another theory, the overall response to leptin may be more individual than we think. Experts say our environment; dietary habits, exercise patterns, personal stress levels, and particularly our genetics may all influence the production of leptin and ghrelin, as well as our response to them.

Sleeplessness if caused by an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnea, treatment is the only way to restore an uninterrupted eight-hour sleep and all the health benefits it brings along with it. But most often today, people are busy burning both ends of the candle in an attempt to balance pressures of work, school or family. Additionally, cell phones, PDA’s, late night television are aids that augment the growth of a sleep-deprived population. It therefore becomes necessary to follow a few sleep hygiene rules and infuse them into children as well. Here are some “sleep hygiene” rules that help one get adequate sleep:

  • Get up at the same time every day (including weekends).
  • Get as much daylight as you can during your desired waking hours.
  • Go to bed at night only when you think you can fall asleep.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping, minimize daytime naps.
  • Make the bedroom dark. Get heavy drapes, if necessary.
  • Minimize caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
  • Unwind for an hour first. Try taking a warm bath, journaling, switching off the news, or drinking some warm milk.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Keep the bills, work, etc., out.

There isn’t a better remedy than sleep for most illnesses and weight loss alike. This research finding is definitely not a replacement for various exercise regimes required to negate excess calorie intake, but provides medical evidence that validates the importance of sleep in losing some, if not all your weight. So go ahead and sleep you way to weight loss!

Article by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed- ME