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Sleep more, weigh less?

A few extra zzz's a night just might help prevent weight gain.
Courtesy Thinkstock.com | iStockphoto

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — From cabbage soup to cranberry juice to high protein diets — it seems like we’ll try anything to lose weight.

We may have a reason to look at our sleep patterns. The 2002 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) Sleep in America poll found that 74 percent of American adults experience a sleeping problem a few nights a week or more, 39 percent get less than six hours of sleep each weeknight, and more than one in three (37 percent) are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with daily activities.

In the past century, we have reduced our average sleep time. Though our society has changed, our brains’ and bodies’ needs have not.



Sleep deprivation is affecting us all and we are paying the price. Getting adequate sleep is the B-FIT wellness theme for January, and this challenge is equally important for children and adults.



NIGHTTIME SLEEP IS IMPORTANT

Researchers studied nearly 70,000 middle-aged women, tracking the effects of sleep habits on weight gain over time.

These findings show that women who slept five hours per night were 32 percent more likely to experience major weight gain (an increase of 33 pounds or more) and were 15 percent more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study, compared to those who slept at least seven hours a night.

Furthermore, a study of 355 children and adolescents, aged 7 to 17 years, revealed missing one hour of needed sleep was associated with almost a two-fold risk of being overweight. It is evident in children there is a relationship between reduced sleep and obesity risk.

THE REASONS: GLUCOSE AND INSULIN

Inadequate sleep may interfere with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, resulting in high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body fat storage. This can also lead to insulin resistance and contribute to increased risk of diabetes.

Sleep deprivation may also cause an increase of the stress hormone cortisol, which can raise both blood pressure and blood glucose.

Some research reveals just one night of sleep deprivation may significantly increase circulating cortisol levels. Increased cortisol — the stress hormone — can also stimulate hunger. As a result, people who sleep less tend to eat more. Study subjects have been shown to crave sweets, starch and salty snacks when their sleep is restricted.

STEPS FOR BETTER SLEEP

Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. Avoid excess light, enjoy a cool room, limit noise and keep your bed for sleep only.

Set a regular time to go to bed and get up — even on weekends.

Don’t eat a large meal before bed. Give yourself and your kids 1 .5 to 2 hours to digest before bed. Limit your use of devices with an LED backlit screen, tablet computers, smartphones, and many flat screen TVs within two hours of bedtime.

Make time to relax and unwind each evening. Take a hot shower or bath, read, go for a small walk after dinner, listen to music, knit, meditate, or work on a puzzle — anything you find soothing.

Limit alcohol. It produces unsettled sleep and alters sleep phases, notably inhibiting REM sleep.

The number of hours of sleep hours you need is highly individual. Take charge and examine your own sleep patterns. Getting adequate sleep may be just what you need to help you reach your optimal weight.

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO YOU NEED?

Newborns (0 to 2 months), 12 to 18 hours

Infants (3 to 11 months), 14 to 15 hours

Toddlers (1 to 3 years), 12 to 14 hours

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years), 11 to 13 hours

School-age children (5 to 10 years), 10 to 11 hours

Teens (10 to 17 years), 8.5 to 9.25 hours

Adults, 7 to 9 hours

Source: National Sleep Foundation

Jill Whisler, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian at the Tahoe Center for Health and Sports Performance, a service of Tahoe Forest Health System. Jill can be reached at 530-587-3769. For further information on sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation website at http://www.sleepfoundation.org.


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