Home ยป Blog topic request: sleep and diet

Blog topic request: sleep and diet

Our friend Lena requested a blog topic: sleep and eating. She asked, “How does sleeping tie into what/how you eat? Is there really much of a connection?” Lena, I’m so glad you asked!

Yes! There most definitely is a connection between sleeping and what and how one eats. There has been a lot of recent research focused on sleep and diet/weight/nutrition with the ever expanding obesity epidemic.

What’s the deal? There’s lots of theories and ideas, let’s discuss.

Scientifically speaking, hormones such as leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol can become out of whack with insufficient sleep. Leptin is the hormone playing a central role in fat metabolism; ghrelin is a hormone counterpart to leptin, which stimulates hunger — increasing before meals and decreasing after meals; cortisol is a hormone commonly referred to as the “stress hormone”, which helps the body use sugar (glucose) and fat for energy (metabolism). A lack of sleep triggers a wave of reactions in the body that begins with the hormones mentioned above. This results in the body waking up exhausted and craving fat and carbohydrates, says Dr. Joseph Koninck, director of the University of Ottawa’s Sleep Research Laboratory. There is no doubt that the hormones which control appetite are effected by insufficient sleep [1]. So, sleep more!

Basic math would also lead any logical person to the conclusion of less hours awake leads to less hours of eating, and thus, less calories consumed. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Those staying up late to watch TV, catch up on emails, or surf the Internet are more often than not consuming high-calorie foods. When you eat late at night, Dr. Koninck suggests one’s sleep is more fragmented due to the body’s digestion process. Lack of deep sleep can also cause a drop in the “satiety hormone”, leptin. This can cause excessive hunger the following day, even after eating. All the while, ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, is rising…setting one up to overeat [1].

Stanford University connected a lack of sleep to the rise in obesity back in 2004. Their 15-year study of 1,024 volunteers with sleep disorders found that individuals sleeping less than 4 hours a night were 73% more likely to be obese [1]. If you don’t have time to sleep, you certainly don’t have time to cook or eat properly, right?

Think YOU’RE getting enough sleep? Maybe not!

In 2006, University of Chicago researchers found that while adults may be in bed for 7.5 hours, the average woman slept for 6.7 hours, while men enjoyed a mere 6.1 hours of rest [1].

How much sleep does one need? Follow these steps to find out…

1. Set a bed time. Calculate back 7 1/2 hours from the time you need to get up to figure out what time that bedtime ought to be.

2. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every day. Make note of what length of sleep leaves you feeling refreshed and awakening without the use of an alarm clock. This is your optimum length of sleep — likely between 7 1/2 and 9 hours each night.

3. Keep a journal. Track when you go to bed, when you get up, any restless periods, when you ate and exercised before bed, whether or not you napped, and if so, for how long.

4. Keep on this schedule! Your body and waistline will thank you!

Key points to remember:
– exercise 30 minutes daily, but not within a few hours of your bedtime
– keep your bedroom a place for sleep and sexual activity only
– get into a pre-bed routine (i.e. bath, music, reading)
– DO NOT check email, watch TV, or play video games before bed — it can leave you sleeping restlessly or unable to get to sleep
– cut out caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours
– DO NOT go to bed on a full stomach OR hungry
– use alcohol in moderation, and not as a sleep aid!

I have to say, I may ace this test. Mark and I climb into bed around 9:40 every night. My alarm goes off at 6:22 am, which is when I get up, so long as Lily has a restful sleep, too. Generally, I feel refreshed and ready for the day. While I still require one dose of caffeine and an alarm clock, I think we happily master the sleep routine.

What time is your bedtime? Are you often tired? What gets in your way of getting more sleep?

[1]. Beun, Chown, Julie. Dozing to diet: Sleep as a diet aid works, research shows.

Canwest News Service. September 18, 2009.

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  1. Gina
    September 22, 2009 / 5:34 pm

    Very interesting post! I knew sleep and hunger had a correlation, but you explained it very well. I always try to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Nick and I go to bed between 11 and 12 everynight, and I'm up between 7:30 and 8am, it works well.Nick and I do tend to eat late at night, which we both need to work on!

  2. LMC
    September 23, 2009 / 11:46 am

    Thank you!! While my sleep habits are poor, this helps explain things and will maybe incite a change. 9:40 though? ๐Ÿ™‚ I have learned the TV/internet lesson though and only read now.

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