The Dream Diet
Sleep yourself skinny!
Want to lose weight? Start out by getting a good night’s sleep. Many of you probably read that and shook your head in disbelief, however, it is true—you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight with a sound sleep schedule.
“Sleep loss is associated with striking alterations in hormone levels that regulate the appetite and may be a contributing factor to obesity,” says Michael Thorpy, MD, director of theSleep-WakeDisordersCenteratMontefioreMedicalCenterinNew York. “Anyone making a commitment to lose weight should probably consider a parallel commitment to getting more sleep.”
Researchers have found that an average of seven to nine hours of sleep is optimal in order to maintain a healthy weight. Doctors have known for a long time that hormones are affected by sleep, however, it wasn’t until recently that David Rapoport, MD, associate professor and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine, stated that appetite entered the picture. What brought it into focus, he says, was research on the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Doctors say that both hormones can influence our appetite and studies have shown that production may also be influenced by the amount of sleep we get.
Some may have never heard of these vital hormones, if that is the case do not worry we will explain, in detail, the role that they play in our bodies. Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full. Why is it so important that these two hormones stay balanced? They work together to communicate to the brain when we are hungry and when we are full. If they are balanced and work properly we are less likely to overeat, therefore, less likely to become overweight.
So what’s the connection to sleep? “When you don’t get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food,” explained Michael Breus, PhD, a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care inAtlanta. Think back to a time when you may have had a sleep-less night– did you find yourself feeling unsatisfied at the end of each meal? Were you drawn to high-carbohydrate or sugary foods? If so, you have felt and experienced the results of this hormone imbalance caused by lack of sleep.
In a joint research project betweenStanfordUniversityand theUniversityofWisconsin– about 1,000 volunteers reported the number of hours they slept each night. Doctors then measured their levels of ghrelin and leptin, as well as charted their weight.
The result: Those who slept less than eight hours a night not only had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, but they also had a higher level of body fat. What’s more, that level of body fat seemed to correlate with their sleep patterns. Specifically, those who slept the fewest hours per night weighed the most.
Many of us have busy lives packed with never-ending “to-do lists” that make it seem impossible to get a little extra snooze time, but add a good night’s sleep to that list and make it a priority. Your mind and body will thank you later for it.
Written by Amy Jensen
Sources: WebMd.com, medicinenet.com and nikolairay.com