Could your sleeping habits be affecting your weight?

Research has found associations between poor sleeping patterns and obesity.

By Lauren Bateman, Weight Management Dietitian

One in three adults suffers from sleep problems, with the constant juggle between work and family life often to blame. While the occasional sleepless night is not going to cause any long-term health problems, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk in the development of obesity as well as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor mental health and a shorter life expectancy. But why is this? There are a number of physiological and psychological explanations.

There are a number of physiological and psychological explanations. Chronic poor sleep can lead to:

• Alterations in the appetite-regulating hormone called ghrelin which is responsible for feelings of hunger and leptin which is responsible for feelings of fullness. Your body’s natural cues regarding appetite control become out of sync.
• Alterations to how the body breaks down sugar, leading to higher circulating insulin levels which can promote more body fat storage and weight gain.
• Increased cravings for sugar in a bid for more energy.
• Having less energy, therefore less desire to cook, leading to unhealthy food choices.
• Reduced exercise levels due to tiredness.

So how much sleep do you need?

Most people need an average of eight hours sleep per night. When it comes to weight, research has found that those who have less than seven hours sleep per night are more likely to be overweight. As well as sleep duration, sleep quality has shown to be important. Read on for ideas about how to improve your sleep quality.

Top tips for a better night’s sleep:

• You’re never too old for a bedtime routine, try to establish regular bedtimes and include time to wind down before bed.
• Try to avoid screens – phones, tablets, computers, TV – for one hour before bed. These devices emit blue light which affects melatonin production, the hormone responsible for sleep. They can also be over stimulating meaning it’s harder to switch off. Buy an alarm clock to avoid taking your phone to bed.
• Reduce your caffeine intake, especially in the evening as this can make it harder to fall asleep. Try decaf or herbal tea instead.
• Limit alcohol. Although alcohol can help you get to sleep quickly, it then affects sleep cycles meaning your sleep quality is poorer.
• Exercise regularly; this can really help wear you out for a better night’s sleep. You may wish to avoid intense exercise too close to bedtime though as this may increase adrenaline levels.
• Stop smoking. Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant meaning it can be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
• Relax before bed. Try reading a book, taking a shower or writing things down that are worrying you.
• Seek help. If you’re suffering from sleep problems then make an appointment with your doctor, who can offer more specific help and support for you.

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