As I continue to muse about tips to help you create a healthy weight in 2010 my thoughts turned to the importance of sleep in weight control. Many of my patients are surprised to learn that sleep can impact your weight.
The first most obvious way that weight and sleep are connected has to do with the time that you eat your last meal and the time you go to sleep. It takes your digestive tract about 3-4 hours to digest your food. If you are eating dinner late and going to sleep soon after you eat, you are creating an equation for weight gain. Think of it like this, food is our body’s fuel. If you eat and the go to sleep, the digestive system produces all this fuel for you to use. However, you are sleep and the fuel is not needed. The body then decides to store the fuel as fat and your weight goes up. The simple solution is to finish eating and snacking, 3-4 before you go to bed.
Our discussion turns, once again to leptin. Leptin is a hormone that helps to regulate our feelings of being full or wanting to continue eating. When high levels of leptin are circulating in the blood, it signals to the brain that we feel full and don’t need to continue eating. When we have low levels of leptin circulating then we feel hungry and have signals to eat.
There has been research showing that when people suffer from too little sleep their leptin levels are lower, resulting in increased appetite and over eating. Lack of sleep, which in the United States includes over half of the population, could be a contributing factor in your ability to lose weight. I want to point out there is a difference between the amount of sleep you need to get by in a day and adequate sleep which is generally between 8-10 hours. I have had many patients fill out my initial evaluation sheets and realize they one get 4-5 hours of sleep each night.
Sleep is important to create a healthy life and maintaining appropriate weight. If you want to have a healthy life and perfect weight for your body you have to create consistent lifestyle behaviors to support health. It means looking at what you eat, when you eat, exercise, sleep and lifestyle habits.