The Importance of Sleep (part 2)

In continuation of HOW sleep affects your health, this blog addresses Sleep Loss, Diabetes, Weight Gain and Metabolism. Again this information was taken from Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD.


Simply put ‘the less you sleep, the more you are likely to eat’. Your body becomes unable to manage those calories effectively, especially your blood sugar. Poor managing of blood sugar can result in Diabetes. There are two types of Diabetes. TYPE 1 is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a natural hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates our blood sugar. Without it, you have to artificially supply it to the body. TYPE 2 is a condition where the body doesn’t respond well to insulin produced by the body. Type 2 is the most common and linked closely to unregulated blood sugar.

Several large epidemiological studies found higher rates of type 2 diabetes among individuals that slept less than six hours a night routinely. Another study took healthy adults who had no existing signs of diabetes and limited their sleep to four hours a night for just six nights. By the end of the sleep deprived period, the participants were 40% less effective at absorbing a standard dose of glucose. Think about that? You see your primary MD with raised blood levels due to lack of sleep and they start a regimen of pre-diabetic diets and medications! An explanation of why? The cells of these tired individuals became far less receptive to insulin. Your cells will repel the glucose NOT absorbing.

Chronic sleep deprivation is now recognized as one of the major reasons type 2 diabetes is so prevalent. And studies suggest it can take 10 years off your life!!

Weight Gain and Obesity

Two hormones that control appetite are to blame for weight gain due to lack of sleep as explained by Dr. Walker.

“ Two hormones control appetite leptin and ghrelin. Leptin signals a sense of feeling full. when levels are high, your appetite is blunted and you don’t feel like eating. Ghrelin, in contrast, triggers a strong sensation of hunger. When ghrelin is increased, so does your desire to eat. An imbalance of either can trigger increased eating and thus weight gain.”

Another researcher Dr. Eve Van Cauter sums up the short sleep effect as double jeopardy when it comes to appetite control hormones: study participants were being punished twice for the same offense. ‘Once by having the “I’m full” signal removed from their system, and once by gaining the “I’m still hungry” feeling amplified’. So, participants didn’t feel satisfied by food when short sleep cycles occurred.

And if you are wondering, you don’t burn extra calories when awake longer. Sleep is an intensely metabolically active state for the brain and body. And the extra calories that are consumed when sleep deprived far out weigh any burned by being awake.

And finally, sleep deprived individuals crave sweets, heavy carb rich foods and salty snacks. Researchers know this has a primitive pattern of brain activity as the cause. These foods obviously will add up to extra calories!

Metabolic Considerations

Let’s say you do restrict your calories and lose weight. Sleep loss also has an effect on the type of weight loss in regards to the source of that loss. Less than 5-5.5 hours of sleep loss resulted in more than 70 percent of the pounds lost came from lean body mass – muscle! More than 8-8.5 hours of sleep, more than 50 percent of weight loss came from fat!! The body becomes stingy on giving up fat when sleep deprived.

Add It All Up

We have an obesity epidemic in this country and we have a sleep deprived society. Coincidence? I’d say not.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and sleep more!

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