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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sleep and Weight Issues

The Healthy Edge addresses many aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  We address how to fit the necessities of health into crazy schedules, limited budgets and disgruntled spouses and kids.  Another aspect that is sometimes overlooked, is the importance of sleep in releasing weight.

Let me begin with a story of one of my clients.  Tina is a mom of three.  Her two youngest children both have a rare genetic condition that has posed physical and mental challenges.   Tina has dedicated her life to caring for her children.  As she began The Healthy Edge program, she was making significant changes in her lifestyle. She was excited that she was noticing the difference in energy, focus and her mood.  She definitely felt healthy.  Her frustration was that, although she felt great, she was not noticing a significant amount of weight being released and there were days she felt RAVISHED even though she was eating every 2-3 hours and eating good portion sizes.

Tina had failed to tell me that the past few weeks had been full of sleepless nights with one of her sons and she had been napping throughout the day to catch up.  Her body did not have a set sleep schedule and she had not slept longer than a few hours at a time.  This piece of information held the missing link to Tina’s weight release. 

While doctors have long known that many hormones are affected by sleep, David Rapoport, MD, associate professor and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City says it wasn't until recently that appetite entered the picture. What brought it into focus, he says, was research on the hormones leptin and ghrelin. (For you Healthy Edgers, we cover this in Seminar 6). Doctors say that both can influence our appetite. And studies show that production of both may be influenced by how much or how little we sleep.

In fact, have you ever experienced a sleepless night followed by a day when no matter what you ate you never felt full or satisfied? If so, then you have experienced the workings of leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of "checks and balances" system to control feelings of hunger and fullness, explains Michael Breus, PhD, a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta. Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.

So what's the connection to sleep? "When you don't get enough sleep, it drives leptin levels down, which means you don't feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, which means your appetite is stimulated, so you want more food," Breus says.  The two combined, he says, can set the stage for overeating, which in turn may lead to weight gain. As covered in Seminar 6 of The Healthy Edge, we also know that carrying extra weight desensitizes us to leptin.

Additional research shows that inadequate sleep (less than 8 hours, although some research says 6):
  • interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage.
  • drives down leptin levels, which causes the body to crave carbohydrates.
  • reduces levels of growth hormone--a protein that helps regulate the body's proportions of fat and muscle.
  • can lead to insulin resistance and contribute to increased risk of diabetes
  • can increase blood pressure
  • can increase the risk of heart disease
Even in young, healthy people, a sleep deficit of three to four hours a night over the course of a week has a triple-whammy effect on the body.  

I am happy to report that Tina, was able to overcome the issues with her son and after one full week of restful sleep, she released six pounds.  The power of sleep cannot be overlooked and our health is a combination of many things, not just the food we put in our mouth!  Keep living the five Healthy Edge goals and get a good night’s sleep!

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