American adults sleep less than 7 hours per night on average (compared to 8.5 hours per night in 1960 and 9 hours per night in 1910).
So why is it important to get the sleep you need?
According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way your body processes and stores carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect your appetite.
When you get a good night’s sleep (at least 8 hours) your body produces the hormone leptin, which regulates your appetite, causing you to feel full and satisfied after a meal. Getting enough sleep also regulates the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite and triggers hunger.
In other words, scraping by on 6 hours or less of sleep per night will cause you to have less leptin (you’ll feel less satisfied after eating) and more ghrelin (you’ll want to eat more food more often)!
Sleep debt not only increases your appetite, but it also causes you to crave calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate foods (e.g. sweets like candy and cookies; salty foods like chips and nuts; and starchy foods like bread and pasta), according to a study done by researchers at the University of Chicago.
When you don’t get adequate rest, you feel tired and your energy levels are low. It’s more of a struggle to get through the day and you’re less likely to exercise as well.
Other reasons to get a good night’s sleep include improved learning and memory, better mood (you know you’re not nearly as irritable, impatient and moody when you’ve gotten enough sleep), and cardiovascular health (serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormones, and irregular heartbeat).
The National Sleep Foundation reports that fewer than 7 hours of sleep each night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes and other health problems as well.
It’s important to mention, children need much more sleep than adults. Because growth hormones are released during sleep, sleep is vital to proper physical and mental growth. Just remember any occasion when your darling baby/toddler/child/teen morphed into the fussy, cranky, difficult version of themselves, all due to lack of sleep!
If you want to maintain (or lose) weight by sleeping more, you need to set a regular bedtime (preferably in a bedroom that’s quiet, dark and cool)… a stick to it!
Take care and God Bless,
Dayo Wilson Lanier, M.D.