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Sleep it off…

Posted Mar 01 2010 12:00am

It’s not news that your hormones are affected by how many hours of sleep you get. However, many people still aren’t getting enough sleep and, as a result, are packing on (and keeping on) the pounds. Let’s take a closer look…

Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones in your body that work together to control your appetite. Ghrelin is produced in your gastrointestinal system and stimulates hunger. Leptin is produced by fat cells and lets you know when you are full. Lack of sleep creates hormone mayhem, as it causes ghrelin levels to rise (increasing your hunger) and sends leptin levels plummeting (leaving you less satisfied when you do eat). As a result, you overeat to try and quench your hunger, but are never satiated because your leptin levels aren’t high enough to send your brain the message that you are full. This troublesome combination leads to an increase in calorie consumption and weight gain.

Here are a few eye opening facts about the link between sleep and weight gain, from Columbia University in New York City:

People who slept 6 hours a night were 23% more likely to be obese than people who slept between 7 and 9 hours.
People who slept 5 hours were 50% more likely to be obese than people who slept between 7 and 9 hours.
People who slept 4 hours or less were 73% more likely to be obese than people who slept between 7 and 9 hours.
What constitutes enough sleep? In an ideal world, we’d all go to bed, fall asleep immediately, sleep solidly for 8.5 hours and wake up naturally, fresh as a daisy! I know that in today’s world of stressful jobs, busy lives and crazy kids, sleep isn’t always that easy to come by. However, knowing how much it affects your health, it is important to make time for sleep each night (“catching up” by sleeping for 10 hours on the weekends does not work to regulate your hormones). Try not to fall below 7 hours of sleep each night. If you are currently only getting 5 hours of sleep each night, try to increase a little at a time to make it manageable. Try going to bed 30 minutes earlier and you will start to notice the immediate benefits of a longer night’s sleep. Develop a bed time routine that helps you relax so you can fall asleep quickly. Use the bedroom for only sleep and sex. Turn off the TV and leave your blackberry on the kitchen table. The world can wait until morning for your reply to an email. DVR your favorite show that starts at 10:00pm, and watch it tomorrow at 7:00pm instead of staying up late tonight. Your health and your scale will thank you!

Do you have tips for a better night’s sleep? If so, please share them. I know many people struggle with getting enough quality sleep, so the more suggestions, the better!

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