BeeZee Bodies are all about habit and behaviour change as part of getting closer to a healthier lifestyle. Setting up good habits in all areas of our lives (not just around food!) can help us feel more in control and able to make change. Plus, it offers improved health in all sorts of ways.
Today is World Sleep Day, a celebration of all things sleepy. So, in BeeZee Bodies style, we are taking a look at how sleep can help us achieve better habits for a healthier lifestyle.
We might be aware of the 8 hour mantra but is that true for everyone?
The NHS website recommends:
This might seem like a lot, especially with all our faced paced lives and busy schedules. How important can those extra couple of hours really be? Well, to be honest, very… This length of time is required for you to go through the familiar with the ‘sleep cycle’, where your body goes through different stages of sleep. We need all stages to be fully rested and for our body to carry out all the process it needs to (which we will come to later).
The thick line in the image below shows the ideal sleep cycle, and the dotted line shows how this is disrupted when sleep is shortened.
Here are some signs that your sleep might not be ideal:
We might all know some of the reasons we should sleep – regain focus and concentration, help your body and brain recover etc. But there are some other health benefits, which especially might be of interest if you are concerned about weight. For example, UK toddlers who had less than 10 and a half hours of sleep a night where at a greater risk of obesity by the age of 7. Again and again, increasing amounts of sleep has been associated with lower risk of obesity, and improved food choice. So why…?
A lack of sleep can disrupt neuroendocrine signals that regulate appetite. It has been shown that restricting sleep causes a reduction in the ‘satiety’ (feeling full) hormone called leptin, and an increase in the hunger hormone, ghrelin. It is thought that his happens because the body is active longer which keeps other signals going (orexins), associated with being awake and eating. It has also been shown that people who were restricted to only 5 and a half hours of sleep a night compared to 8 and a half had an increased energy intake in the day due to snacking, which equated to over 200 extra calories a day. Those people ranked not just a higher amount of actual hunger, but also rated a higher ‘food desirability’, meaning they craved higher calorie and sugar foods more than those who got more sleep. So, it looks like getting enough sleep has both physiological and behavioural mechanisms that lead to healthier food choices.
It’s not just hunger and energy intake that can be messed up by lack of sleep, but the more intricate and on-topic area of blood glucose. Experiments in sleep deprivation (roughly 4 hours of sleep a night) showed that those people had higher overall blood glucose levels, poorer clearing of blood glucose, and higher insulin resistance. All of these things are markers for increased type 2 diabetes risks. In fact, when 20 year-old, healthy males were deprived of sleep they had similar glucose tolerances to 60+ year olds with known glucose and insulin problems. Furthermore, there were higher levels of inflammatory markers, called cytokines, which are known to predispose to type 2 diabetes as well.
Only 4 hours of sleep is really deprived. The reality for most of us might be more like 5 or 6 hours a night. So is this better? Well, not really. Although no long term studies on recurrent restriction have been done (who would sign up to that!) similar patterns have been seen in small scale experiments. The good news is that when those people who were sleep deprived returned to their normal sleep levels, their glucose levels and tolerances improved. However, the levels did not return completely to normal in the time the experiment was run. This seems to indicate that the effects of having days with less sleep are not completed corrected by ‘catching up’. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, if you follow this pattern, it suggests that the more consistent sleep restriction there is, the more it disrupts the body’s healthy glucose and insulin levels which can’t always be undone.
Now we know what good sleep is, and why, let’s talk about how to get it. Here are some ideas if you are struggling to get the right amount and kind of sleep:-