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How much of that would change if I slept earlier to wake up earlier?
“Sleep drives our schedules as humans and everything about our bodies works a little bit better when we’re on a schedule,” says Chris Winter, MD, author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It,” and medical director of the Sleep Medicine Center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia.
“We digest better, our hormones function better, we’re in a better mood, our skin looks clearer, and yes, we’re more mentally focused and productive.”
So, with a lot to gain (read: getting assignments in on time) and not a lot to lose, I set out to fall asleep at or before 8:30 p.m. — even on the weekends — for a full week. Hello, productivity. Goodbye… social life?
- Researchers found that sleep restriction altered endocannabinoid levels—chemical signals that affect appetite and the brain’s reward system.
- The results may help explain the link between insufficient sleep and obesity.
Just One Night of Poor Sleep May Add to Weight Gain, Muscle Loss
Could lack of sleep be causing you to gain weight?
Think about it: If you’re feeling sleepy at work, you may be tempted to reach for a cup of coffee (or several cups) and a doughnut for a quick shot of energy. Later you may skip the gym and pick up takeout on your way home to your family — no time to cook. When you finally find yourself back in your bed, you are too wound up to sleep.
It’s a vicious cycle, and eventually this sleep deprivation can sabotage your waistline and your health.
It starts out innocently enough. “When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods,” saysSusan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
The immediate result? You may be able to fight off sleepiness. The ultimate result? Unwanted pounds as poor food choices coupled with lack of exercise set the stage for obesity and further sleep loss.
“Sleep debt is like credit card debt,” Zafarlotfi says. “If you keep accumulating credit card debt, you will pay high interest rates or your account will be shut down until you pay it all off. If you accumulate too much sleep debt, your body will crash.”
Not getting enough sleep is common — even talked about with pride — in the U.S. “We brag about an all-nighter, but we do pay a price for staying up late and getting up early,” says Mark Mahowald, MD, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Hennepin County.
The sleep-diet connection is regular fodder for diet books and magazine articles. Maybe you have even heard about the sleep diet, which suggests you can lose weight while you catch your ZZZs.
And it’s true, sort of.
“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleepand the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.
Skimping on just one night’s sleep may have more significant — and immediate — consequences beyond feeling groggy and sluggish the next day. According to a new, small study, when men forgo just one night of their usual amount of sleep, their bodies experience changes that could promote weight gain and muscle loss.
In the study, which was published today (Aug. 22) in the journal Science Advances, the researchers observed changes in the fat and muscle tissue in 15 healthy young men in response to sleep loss.
After the men spent a single night not sleeping, the researchers found indications that fat and muscle responded in opposite ways, said lead study author Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes, a research associate in the Division of Endocrinology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Namely, the body increased its capacity for fat storage, while skeletal muscle tissue showed signs of increasing muscle breakdown.[5 Surprising Sleep Discoveries]
It’s not yet clear how quickly these changes in fat and muscle occur when sleep is disrupted, or how they may affect metabolism if sleep loss occurs over a longer period of time than the one night observed in the study, Cedernaes told Live Science. But the changes could help explain why previous studies have shown a link between changes in circadian rhythms and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, he said. Circadian rhythm changes can happen, for example, in people who do shift work or those with chronic sleep disruption.
The study took place at a sleep lab at Uppsala University in Sweden, where Cedernaes worked in the Department of Neuroscience. Fifteen healthy young men, with an average age of 22, participated in the research, which involved sleeping in the lab, with blood and tissue samples taken after each night. All of the participants said they normally slept between 7 and 9 hours a night.
So, on the first night of the study, the men got to do just that: They slept in the sleep lab for about 8.5 hours.
But on the second night, the men either got to sleep normally again, or were subjected to «overnight wakefulness,» meant to simulate the body’s response to shift work or going without sleep. In this scenario, the lights in participants’ rooms were kept on all night and the men had to remain in their beds and stay awake for 8.5 hours. Several weeks later, the men returned to the lab for another two nights to repeat the procedure. The only difference was, on the second night, the men who got to sleep normally the first time around were subjected to overnight wakefulness, and vice versa.
When the researchers analyzed the fat and muscle tissue samples taken from the men after the sleepless night, they spotted changes in gene expression and protein levels. These changes provide devidence of increased skeletal muscle breakdown and an increased capacity to hold onto body fat, compared with the normal sleep night, Cedernaes said. (Gene expression refers to whether a gene is turned on or off.)
One of the mechanisms driving the changes that the researchers observed could be fluctuations in the levels of hormones, including cortisol, growth hormone and testosterone, Cedernaes said. Some of these hormonal changes can also lead to shifts in a person’s circadian rhythms, which can throw the body’s metabolic processes out of whack, he explained.
The findings also revealed that with a short-term loss of sleep, skeletal muscle proteins had a reduced ability to use blood sugar as fuel. This could explain why sleep loss over time may reduce a person’s ability to control blood sugar levels, leading to diabetes, Cedernaes said.
Frank Scheer, a neuroscientist and director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who was not involved with research, praised the comprehensive analytical techniques used in the study. These provided novel insights into the effects of restricted sleep on muscle mass and fat, he said.
The researchers found changes in genes that affect the circadian clock in muscle and fat, as well as tissue-specific changes in metabolic pathways, Scheer told Live Science.
Future studies are needed to investigate to what degree the observed changes are due to sleep restriction rather than to the men’s nighttime light exposure, which can also affect circadian systems in the body, Scheer said.
He noted that the study had limitations. For example, it was a small study that included only young Caucasian men who stayed up all night one time. The findings would also need to be confirmed in women and in people of different ages and races, as well as in obese and diabetic individuals, Scheer said. Similar analytic techniques would also need to be done in people after they’d experienced multiple nights of sleep restriction, he added.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:25 pm E.T. on Aug. 23 to include additional information about the study procedure.
Originally published on Live Science.
It’s true: Being short on sleep can really affect your weight. While you weren’t sleeping, your body cooked up a perfect recipe for weight gain.
When you’re short on sleep, it’s easy to lean on a large latte to get moving. You might be tempted to skip exercise (too tired), get takeout for dinner, and then turn in late because you’re uncomfortably full.
If this cascade of events happens a few times each year, no problem. Trouble is, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Yet experts agree that getting enough shut-eye is as important to health, well-being, and your weight as are diet and exercise.
Skimping on sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control.
So it’s a little like being drunk. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions.
Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain‘s reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good. So while you might be able to squash comfort food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have trouble saying no to a second slice of cake.
Research tells the story. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfound that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks. In another study done at the University of Chicago, sleep-deprived participants chose snacks with twice as much fat as those who slept at least 8 hours.
A second study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, increasing weight gain. And in a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.
Add it all together, and a sleepy brain appears to crave junk food while also lacking the impulse control to say no.
By Zahra Barnes for Life by DailyBurn
Can’t figure out why you’re gaining weight — or why it’s so difficult to erase those extra pounds? You might be suffering from sleep deprivation — even if you swear you’re getting enough sleep at night. In fact, one study presented at this year’s Endocrine Society national meeting suggests that getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
Logically, it’s practically impossible to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle if you don’t have the energy for it. “If I’ve gone to bed late or I have a restless night, I’m more likely to turn off my alarm in the morning and skip my workout,” says Paige DePaolis, 24. “It could be me consciously thinking, ‘No way am I going to that exercise class,’ or unconsciously snoozing to the point that it’s too late to make it to the class.”
Most of us have been there before. But there are also scientific reasons why a lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.
Sleep: Your Body’s Best Friend
If you thought under-eye circles were the worst consequence of skimping on sleep, you’re in for a shock. “Sleep is important for pretty much every one of your physical systems,” says Janet K. Kennedy, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor. “Sleep deprivation leads to deficits in cognitive functioning, whether it’s reaction time, decision-making, or memory.”
Sleep is essential for beyond just what’s going on in your brain, too. “Sleep is involved in the repair and restoration of the body. The rest that happens during sleep really rejuvenates your body for the next day,” says Kennedy.
Plus, you might be suffering from the symptoms of sleep deprivation, even if you think you’re spending enough time in the sack. “We used to think you needed a significant amount of sleep deprivation for it to have an effect on weight. It turns out that’s not true,” says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a sleep specialist and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep. Just 30 minutes of sleep loss could make you more likely to gain.
Why Sleep Deprivation Causes Weight Gain
Losing out on sleep creates a viscous cycle in your body, making you more prone to various factors contributing to weight gain.
“The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite,” says Breus. And it’s not like you’re going to be suddenly ravenous for kale salads, either. “For me, it takes a bit of willpower to choose the salad over the sandwich,” DePaolis says. “When I’m tired, I go for whatever’s going to be easy and make me feel better in the moment.”
Often, that means reaching for bad-for-you foods. “When you’re stressed, your body tries to produce serotonin to calm you down. The easiest way to do that is by eating high-fat, high-carb foods that produce a neurochemical reaction,” Breus says.
A lack of sleep also hinders your body’s ability to process the sweet stuff. “When you’re sleep deprived, the mitochondria in your cells that digest fuel start to shut down. Sugar remains in your blood, and you end up with high blood sugar,” says Breus. Losing out on sleep can make fat cells 30 percent less able to deal with insulin, according to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine.
When you’re wiped out, your hormones go a little nuts, too, boosting levels of the ghrelin, which tells you when you’re hungry, and decreasing leptin, which signals satiety. In fact, sleep-deprived participants in one small study of 30 people ate an average of 300 more calories per day, according to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And a larger study of 225 people found that those who only spent four hours in bed for five consecutive nights gained almost two pounds more than those who were in bed for about 10 hours, over the course of a week.
One reason you might pack on pounds when you’re sleep deprived is because your body goes into survival mode. Sleeplessness can fool your body into thinking you’re in danger. “Your metabolism slows because your body is trying to maintain its resources, and it also wants more fuel,” says Breus. “I would argue that sleep is probably the most important thing a person can do if they’re ready to start a diet and lose weight,” says Breus.
How To End Your Cycle Of Sleep Deprivation
“Sleeping isn’t downtime. You’re feeding your body just as you are when you eat.”
Luckily, there are easy ways to make sure sleep never gets in between you and your goal weight again. First, figure out your bedtime. Count seven and a half hours before the time you need to wake up, says Breus. That’s your “lights out” time, which should ensure you’re getting enough sleep to make your body wake itself up at the proper time (maybe even before an alarm goes off). And keep that wake-up time consistent, Kennedy recommends. “Doing that and getting out of bed at the same time sets your body’s clock so you’ll be tired around the same time every night,” she says.
If you feel like you’re still having sleep issues, keep a sleep diary that you can take in to a doctor. “Try to really get a sense of what’s going on day-to-day. Record what time you’re going to bed, roughly what time you fall asleep, if you’re waking up in the middle of the night, when you wake up in the morning, and what time you get out of bed,” says Kennedy. Also make sure to jot down other sleep-related markers, like how you feel throughout the day, exercise, caffeine intake, alcohol and stress levels.
Most important of all, make sleep a priority. “It’s physically unhealthy to lose sleep. And it’s such an easy fix in theory,” says Kennedy. “It requires both a behavioral and conceptual shift. Sleeping isn’t downtime. You’re feeding your body just as you are when you eat.”
More from Life by DailyBurn:
9 Ways to Fall Asleep Faster (Without Counting Sheep)
15 Gadgets for a Better Night’s Sleep
What Is Melatonin and Can It Help You Sleep?
The third night: Tuesday
In order to make my first appointment with my bed-turned-suitor, I had to leave dinner with my CrossFit friends by 8:00 p.m. Considering we normally ward off the Sunday Scaries by hanging out until at least 10:00 p.m., this was arguably freakishly early.
Still, I fell asleep without issue by 8:30 p.m. and hopped right out of bed when my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.… to five unread texts from my #fitfam with geriatric doctor recommendations in the area. Hilarious.
The morning may be my work primetime, but the nights are when I crush my workouts — which is why for the past two years I’ve been a devote attendee of the hour-long 7:00 p.m. CrossFit class at the box around the corner from my apartment.
Let’s pause and do the math here: If I wanted to take that class, I’d have approximately 30 minutes after class to walk home, wrestle off my sweat-soaked sports bra and leggings, nosh on a post-workout snack — potentially even dinner — brush my teeth, wash my face, and fall asleep.
On top of that, Winter warns that exercising so close to bed might actually interfere with my ability to fall asleep. “Our bodies natural temperature dips in the evening, which is a sign we’re ready for bed. But exercising at night can thwart that by heating your body up.”
Thankfully, it didn’t seem to be the case. I was back home in my jammies by 8:20, and with only 10 minutes to eat before my self-prescribed bedtime, I noshed on a protein bar, brushed my pearly whites, and was asleep somewhere between 8:35 p.m. and 8:38 p.m.
All was fine and well the next morning… except I was ridiculously constipated. Cue the black coffee and the official ban of protein bars 10 minutes before bed. Never again.
Since I work from home., I prepped a dinner Julia Child would approve of around 5:00 p.m. The thinking was that if I could make, eat, and digest dinner before getting my fitness on, I wouldn’t need a protein bar after working out and constipation would be a thing of the past. Like flip phones. Or my ex.
Unfortunately, there were handstand pushups in the workout that day, which for the uninitiated, require you to be full upside down.
I didn’t vomit. But I assure you salmon burps post-WOD are unpleasant — and oddly distracting. Regardless, I finished the workout, walked home, pulled on my pajamas, and rehydrated, no post-workout snack necessary.
On these days, I had a GI-friendly (read: bland) dinner before CrossFit, got back home by 8:10 p.m., and spent the next 20 minutes taking selfies in my new Christmas pajamas — 3 pack at TJ Maxx, don’t @ me — before going to sleep.
Here’s the thing: I woke up before 5:00 a.m. those next mornings. As far as I’m concerned, this doesn’t just make me a morning person. It basically makes me the next Tim Cook.
Alas, instead of doing important Apple-y things, I answered emails and wrote about vagina sheet masks.
On Friday evening, two glorious things happened.
One, my dad was visiting from his retirement home in Florida. Completely unaware of my little challenge, he made 5:30 p.m. dinner reservations. A great, if not elderly, way to avoid the New York dinner crowds.
Second, dinner was over by 7:30, and because it was my rest day, I spent the rest of the evening watching Friends reruns in a eucalyptus facemask. I was dreaming about dyeing my hair blue and moving Texas by 8:30 p.m. Ah, the good life.
And let me just say, I think waking up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday is the missing (read: lucrative) link my routine had been missing. When I say I got shit done, I mean I made that to-do list my b****.
Nothing says single and ready to mingle quite like going to bed at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday. So, in the name of not becoming an old lonely maid (and you know, #balance), I hung out at the bar with my friends until 9:30 p.m…. and then was asleep by 10:00 p.m.
Sure, this may have been a slight cheat to my challenge, but I got up the next morning with 7 full hours of sleep logged and had finished my Sunday to-do list by 10:00 a.m. I guess you could say my productivity hack worked without totally destroying my social life.
The verdict? I’m a new woman
I may not have the Instagram followings of bedtime-routine queens Oprah, Arianna Huffington, or Sheryl Sandberg, but I’ve never felt closer to fame (i.e. more productive) than I felt during my full week of going to sleep at 8:30 p.m. and waking up at 5:00 a.m.
I’m no mathematician, but if I had to put a number on it based off of how many more articles I wrote this week, I’d say I produced 30 percent more content this week than any other week.
While I can’t promise that I’ll choose socializing after the gym over or a Tinder date over an 8:30 p.m. bedtime every night, I learned that this switch is the most stress-reducing, productivity-increasing thing I can do for my work day.