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How does sleep quality affect weight?

Poor sleep affects cognitive ability to coronary heart disease, diabetes and even a shorter life expectancy. Poor sleep is associated with a generally poorer quality of life.

Most adults need eight hours of sleep each night to feel healthy and function optimally. Eight hours is a good base, however, each of us has a slightly different ideal or set point when it comes to the required number of hours of sleep per day. Some need a little more and some a little less.

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(Photo: iStock/parentmap)

Children 6-12 years old need more sleep, 9-12 hours a day.

Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Older adults may experience a change in sleeping patterns, but still need seven or eight hours a day.

A sleepless night or two can leave you tired, unfocused, and short-tempered. Chronic poor sleep is a more serious situation, but there are treatments and tactics that can help.

Why does poor quality or inadequate sleep hinder weight loss efforts or contribute to weight gain?

First, let’s talk about hormones. Sleep affects two important hormones that are involved in appetite. Leptin is an appetite-reducing hormone and ghrelin is an appetite-stimulating hormone. It’s called the “hunger hormone”. When your stomach growls, ghrelin is doing its job. When you eat between meals and realize you feel full but not full, that’s leptin at work.

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Poor sleep leads to low leptin and high ghrelin levels. Low levels of leptin, produced by fat cells, tell your body that you’re hungry and your appetite needs to increase. Ghrelin is an appetite stimulant, so high ghrelin levels mean you’ll want to eat more.

Scientist Shahrad Taheri conducted a sleep study with more than 1,000 volunteers as part of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, which began in 1989. Subjects recorded their sleep habits. and every four years, have their blood drawn and undergo other tests to measure physiological variables in their sleep duration.

People who regularly slept less than 5 hours per night had 16% less leptin and 15% less ghrelin than well-rested people, sleeping an average of 8 hours per night. In other words, their body’s hunger signal kicks in and their appetite increases. Together, these disruptions make for the perfect storm.

Studies have found that napping also affects the foods we choose to eat. People who are sleep deprived tend to choose foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates. Those foods are comforting and provide a quick (though not sustaining) energy boost.


A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition compiled data collected in nearly a dozen smaller studies involving about 175 people. In each, the participants experienced varying amounts of sleep loss over a fairly short period of time, from one day to two weeks. Calorie intake was measured and sleep-deprived people averaged 385 extra calories per day.

Furthermore, the extra calories are mostly in the form of increased fat. Participants also tended to eat less protein when sleep-deprived. Two things that didn’t change were carbohydrate consumption and activity levels. More calories plus the same activity means weight gain. An average of 385 extra calories per day without increasing activity can yield 3-4 pounds (nearly 2kg) per month, or 36-48 pounds (about 16-21 kg) per year. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle: poor food choices and overeating affect your sleep, and poor sleep negatively affects your food choices.

Sleep is intimately linked to metabolic processes in the body, and our poor sleep habits are pushing limits on our body’s ability to regulate some of these functions. A century ago, we slept an average of nine hours a night. These days, we sleep an average of 6.8 hours a night. Worse still, nearly a third of adults said they slept less than six hours per night. At the same time, cases of diabetes and obesity are on the rise.

Certainly choices in the quantity and quality of food and activity levels play a role in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, but the impact of irregular or poor quality sleep is increasingly being recognized. recognition. It’s part of the puzzle for overall good health as well as a healthy weight.

Ways to get a good night’s sleep

Exercise regularly. Try to exercise or be active for 30 minutes most days. It could be gardening, dancing while you cook, doing a couple of sets or doing push-ups… Just don’t over-exercise in the 2-3 hours before bed.


Build (and stick to) a bedtime routine. What helps you relax? A warm bath or reading a good book can be good ways to start. Turn off the television and avoid other forms of screen use for an hour or so before bedtime.

Avoid nicotine in any form. Nicotine is a stimulant and makes it harder to fall asleep.

Say no to caffeine after 2pm. It is also a stimulant and sleep disruptor.

Do not take a nap in the late afternoon. The nap should be taken before 3 p.m. and no longer than about 20 minutes.

Choose clothes that are warm enough, cool enough, and not restrictive. Consider wearing socks while you sleep. Warming up your feet (and hands) causes blood vessels to dilate (open up), a process known as vasodilation, which releases heat through your skin and helps lower your core body temperature, regulating This signals your brain that it’s time to go to sleep.

Don’t eat right before going to bed. A light snack is fine, but a large meal before bed is a trigger.

Get ready for sleep in your room. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. For most, that’s in the 65 to 67°F range (about 19 degrees C)

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