Sleep and Obesity

Sleep and Obesity

Like many sleep disorders, sleep and obesity is a catch-22. Let me explain. Let's say you're stressed and you suffer from insomnia as a result. Then, because you can't sleep from the insomnia, you get more stressed. And the circle continues. Well, it's the same way with sleep and obesity. Food has been shown to perpetuate this cycle in not just adults, but also in teenagers and children as well.

One study on lack of sleep causes conducted at Columbia University, showed that people who lack sleep tend to consume considerably more calories than "healthy" sleepers. In the study, patients who slept less than 7 hours, increased their caloric intake by an average of 300 calories. It also showed that women who lacked sleep were more likely to consume more calories than their male counterparts.

How Hormones Affect Sleep and Obesity

As Michael Breus, PhD, director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta says "Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of "checks and balances" system to control feelings of hunger and fullness". Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and makes you feel hungry or stimulates your appetite. Leptin, on the other hand, is produced in fat cells and gives you the full feeling by sending a signal to your brain.

Sleep and Obesity - Fat Sleeping Cat

The connection is that when you're sleep deprived, leptin levels drop and ghrelin levels rise, stimulating your appetite and giving you a sensation of being constantly hungry - even after you finish eating.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65% of americans are overweight. In 2010, 33.8% of adults and 17% of children aged 2-19 were obese. Not only is the nation getting fatter, but people are becoming more and more sleep deprived - perpetuating the vicious circle of obesity and sleep.

One way to interrupt this cycle is to control your cravings. While most sleep deprived people crave high calorie foods, consume proteins instead. If you focus on foods high in proteins for breakfast and lunch, this will help keep your body's energy levels up. While calories create a sugar high in the body that leads to a sugar lull and fatigue, protein will satisfy the body's energy needs for longer and more effectively.

In a society where breakfast usually consists of high calorie foods (cereals, bagels, muffins, toast, pancakes and waffles), it is difficult to find other options. Yes, bacon and eggs for breakfast is high in protein. But eating a high fat, high oil, high sodium breakfast everyday will also lead to obesity. Try eating healthier meats for breakfast like turkey or chicken. Salads as well as some fruit for natural caffeine and complex sugars will also help keep your sleep and obesity in check.