The Importance of Sleep and How it Can Affect Your Weight

sleep

 

With National Sleep Awareness Week during the week of March 11, now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of sleep and its connection to weight. The amount of sleep you get can directly impact your health, both mentally and physically, for better or worse.

The Importance of Sleep

When you get enough sleep every day, your overall health benefits — you have the energy you need to get through the day and perform at your best, you feel mentally alert and you experience a more balanced emotional state.

Consistent lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, on the other hand, can result in energy depletion, decreased productivity, a foggy mental state, imbalanced emotions and even weight gain.

The Connection Between Sleep and Weight Gain

Recent studies have shown a connection between the number of hours a person sleeps and weight gain. These studies suggest that the chances of weight gain increase when an individual gets either less than five hours of sleep or more than nine hours of sleep.

Why the correlation? According to one study, men who were continually deprived of sleep had an increase in their desires for high-calorie foods and their overall calorie intake increased. In another study, women who slept less than six hours or more than nine hours a night were more likely to gain weight compared to women who slept seven hours a night. Yet another study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, resulting in weight gain.

Two theories as to why this occurs are:

1. Sleep duration affects hormones that regulate hunger and stimulate appetite. Basically, when we don’t get the proper amount of sleep, we’re hit with a double whammy: our brains crave junk food and lack the impulse control to say no to those cravings.

2) Those who lack for sleep are always fatigued and, therefore, get less physical activity. This can lead to weight gain or interfere with one’s efforts to lose weight.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Unfortunately, the number of people getting insufficient sleep and/or not getting the quality of sleep their bodies need to function optimally seems to be increasing. If you fall into the camp of those who need to get a good night’s sleep consistently, try the tips below for improved sleep.

  • Follow a sleep-wake schedule by going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time each day. Be consistent, sticking to it even on weekends. You’ll notice that you feel much more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours during different time frames each day.
  • Exercise during the day. People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel more awake during the day. Regular exercise can also improve the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual that avoids screens for at least an hour before going to bed (this includes the TV, computers and cell phones). Doing so tells your brain that it’s time to wind down and relax. A few ideas to try are reading a book by soft lighting, taking a warm bath, listening to relaxing music or doing simple stretches.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol in the evening, particularly close to bedtime. Spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn and alcohol can interfere with your sleep cycle.
  • Be aware of when you consume caffeinated beverages and foods such as tea, coffee, soda and chocolate. Try not to consume them after 2 PM because caffeine can stay in your system for several hours, negatively affecting your sleep.
  • Set a peaceful environment that’s conducive to sleep. Turn out the lights, as darkness signals your body to release melatonin, the natural sleep hormone, while light suppresses it. Also, keep the temperature around 65-68 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is too hot or too cold, it can interfere with sleep patterns.
Sound a bit overwhelming? Take it one step at a time. Pick the tip that’s most appealing to you or that you feel you can easily incorporate into your daily routine and start with that one. Once you’ve successfully implemented it, pick another one and continue adding one at a time at your own pace.Before you know it, you’ll be getting a great night’s sleep every night and reaping the positive mental and physical benefits.

The Solution to Fat Stigma and Bullying

bullying

As fall approaches and the kids are going back to school, first-day jitters abound for students everywhere. One thing kids shouldn’t have to worry about? Bullying. Unfortunately, as schools and administrators battle bullies, kids and teens remain susceptible to hurtful or aggressive behavior from other students.

Sadly, the primary reason kids are targeted in schools is obesity or weight-related issues. Before sensitive issues like sexual orientation, academic performance or ethnicity, childhood weight problems rank as the most common motive for bullies.

While weight-based biases are often more pronounced in affluent communities where an ultra-thin physique is most valued, it seems that “fat stigma” is almost universal among developed countries. The community at large often attributes weight-gain to voluntary lifestyle choices rather than a medical condition, and the underlying belief that obese people choose their weight seems to justify poor treatment and discrimination. In fact, some believe that discrimination will act as motivation for overweight people to make better choices.

“What is sad is that there is a solution to this problem,” Dr. Dirk says. “Instead of demanding change in laws or other peoples behavior, it is long overdue to accept obesity as a true medical condition. Obesity has been identified as a real medical condition since 2004. It took the American Medical Association until 2013 to recognize it as a medical condition.”

As a medical condition, obesity directly affects health and day-to-day activities, from students’ classwork to the daily tasks of a demanding job. It takes a toll on one’s heart health, blood sugar levels and, sadly, psychological well-being.

Facing daily discrimination in what should be a safe learning environment isn’t something any child or teenager should have to live with. Instead, kids should be educated on healthy practices like a balanced diet and regular exercise with the help of a doctor or nutritionist. If these changes aren’t enough to combat obesity as a medical condition, there are still options to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

“If your obesity includes, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and high cholesterol, it is time to think of bariatric surgery even sooner,” Dr. Dirk explains. For this reason, Dr. Dirk is one of the few surgeons who chooses to operate on teens to allow them full participation in the day-to-day activities that their friends and peers enjoy. If your child struggles with obesity, remember that they struggle with a medical condition that is treatable with the help of trained experts.