As we close the door on yet another year, I have to ask – “is one of your New Year’s resolutions to lose weight?”
As a shift worker immersed in a sleep disrupted lifestyle, I’d say the chances of you replying to that question with a “yes”, is pretty high.
Why? Well generally speaking, the less we sleep, the more we’re going to weigh.
I know what you’re thinking – “that sucks!”
I agree. It does. But the thing is, when we’re sleep deprived, there are 3 distinct things or biochemical changes which occur within our body, that if we ignore, can fast track us down the express lane to weight gain before we’ve even had a chance to see it coming!
- When we haven’t had enough sleep, our body instinctively seeks out energy that it didn’t get during a restorative night’s rest.What does that mean? Well the quickest and easiest source of energy that our body can use is, you guessed it – sugar! Or more scientifically, glucose, which means if you don’t get sufficient sleep, you’re going to have some serious carbohydrate cravings.
- When we haven’t had enough sleep, it dysregulates our appetite-regulating hormones ‘ghrelin’ and ‘leptin’. Ghrelin is a hormone that gets released to increase our appetite, whereas leptin is a hormone that lets you know when you’re feeling full. The problem when we’re sleep deprived, is ghrelin becomes elevated making us feel hungrier than normal, whilst at the same time, leptin becomes suppressed meaning you’re not going to receive that “I’m feeling full” signal which can lead to overeating and subsequent weight gain.So yes, you do have a valid, scientific explanation (or shall we say ‘justification’) as to why you polished off 1/2 packet of Tim Tams in your meal break!
- When we haven’t had enough sleep, it increases a stress hormone in our body called cortisol. While it’s a great hormone to have around when you need to slam on your breaks in traffic, its not good to have high amounts of it floating around on a consistent basis. This is because cortisol raises our blood sugar, which in turn, raises our insulin levels. Like with anything in excess, too much insulin can lead in the development of a condition called insulin resistance, which reduces our body’s ability to burn fat often leading in the development of weight gain around the abdomen or belly region.
So whilst what we eat is important when it comes to sustainable weight loss – it’s certainly by no means, the be all and end all.
Instead of following the crowd and focussing all of your attention on a restrictive, unsustainable diet for your New Year’s Resolution (which let’s face it, most have usually given up by the 2nd week of January anyway!), my recommendation for you, is to take on a completely different approach.
That being focussing on improving both the quality and quantity of your sleep, because this is going to help your body to experience less sugar cravings and hormonal dysregulation, which will inadvertently help you to lose weight anyway!
And let’s face it, who doesn’t want better sleep – especially when working 24/7!
Greer, S, Goldstein, A & Walker, M 2013, ‘The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain’, Nature Communications, vol. 4, no. 2259.
Hirotsu, C, Tufik, S & Anderson, M 2015, ‘Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions’, Sleep Science, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 143-142.
Taheri, S, Lin, L, Austin, D, Young, T & Mignot, E 2004, ‘Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index’, PLoS Medicine, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 210-217.