Getting healthy is so much more than eating and moving. Now I have to give the credit where it is due. Nutrition and exercise is very important. But they are not the whole equation. In today's article, I write about sleep, what happens in the body, why it is crucial, what we can do to improve our sleep.
Multiple studies show that sleep deprivation causes increase in hunger, decrease in energy expenditure, insulin resistance, effects on thyroid and lack of energy the following day. What all these add up to is weight gain or even becoming type II diabetic.
Because I just started this website, I don’t want to get into too much of the science but a simple Google search on these will get you to the studies (I will link them in the upcoming articles, I promise). Right now I just want to keep the information as simple as possible, and simply tell you what (not how) happens with lack of sleep. Increase in hunger is easy to understand, right? When we have more appetite, we tend to eat more. Because we want to eat more, we tend to go for the calorie dense foods like a muffin from Starbucks or some pancakes from IHOP. And as I said before, eating junk food is not all about calories. It disrupts how our bodies function which may result in gaining body fat. Decrease in energy expenditure is simple enough too. We burn less calories throughout the day. I don’t think that I should ramble on this a lot so I’ll just leave it at that. Insulin resistance is a scary one. Studies show that one bad night of sleep can cause insulin resistance. How about a chronic lack of sleep? Not getting enough sleep over a long period of time will lead to having insulin resistance over that time. And the research is pretty clear on having insulin resistance over some time that it leads to obesity and type II diabetes. According to Robb Wolf’s blog (another person that I follow, also I’d like to meet him one day), insulin and leptin kind of talk to each other. If you have resistance to one, you are highly likely to develop resistance to the other. Leptin is the signal in our bodies that tells our brain how much fat storage we have. If we have leptin resistance, our brain cannot hear the shouting of this signal and brain starts thinking that we don’t have enough energy stored in case of a crisis, so we start storing more and more of what we eat. Trust me; you don’t want to have insulin or leptin resistance. Lack of sleep also elevates thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in our bodies. We tend to have high TSH levels when we have low active thyroid hormones (especially T3). When we have low T3 levels, we have low energy expenditure and losing body fat becomes harder. Poor sleep also leads to lack of energy which then results in living a very sedentary life. As you can see, it is a snow ball effect. If we don’t tackle this, small problems get bigger and bigger over time and results in weight gain and diseases later in life.
Sleep is one of the most important factors in getting healthy. One simple thing to do is to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. If you are unable to go to sleep easily, here are some of the things you can do: Limit light exposure from electronics (TVs & computers) prior to bed time; have a pitch black room at night (turn off the night stand lamp, put up black curtains). If you still have problems, taking Holy Basil (lowers the cortisol) before bed will help. Wearing blue-light blocking glasses after sunset. You can find a cheap one on Amazon for about $8. Buying a pair was one of the best decisions I made. Meditation prior to bed will also calm your sympathetic nervous system which then will help your sleep. There is a lot more science behind these which I will tackle in future articles. But for now, it’s important for you to understand that sleeping like a baby is the key to health.