Sleep and nutrition

(Skinny) Sleeping Beauty
As a nation we are getting fatter. We’ve heard it. We’ve seen it. We are well aware we are supersizing at an alarming rate. Over the next two decades, the UK will become home to a whopping 11 million obese adults, costing the NHS £2 billion per year. Brits are the fattest in Europe, we’re basically guzzling gastric bands. And as for the kids… we’ll they are certainly not alright. It’s the fault of fast food outlets, video games and our ever increasing portion sizes. Fingers are pointed at advertising agencies, teachers and parents. Although we are brainwashed with cookery programmes on the TV, left alone in the kitchen too many of us are stumped when it comes to making a healthy meal. No time, no money, just deliver me a pizza and leave me alone…..
It is estimated that we spend approximately 217,175 hours asleep in our lifetime. Interestingly in 1960, we slept on average 8.5 hours per night and obesity rates were around 12%. By 2011, the average number of hours had fallen to 6.5 and obesity rates had increased to around 30%.  A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that a lack of quality sleep is contributing to the obesity epidemic. Thestudy in question was focused on children aged 3-5 and it found that those who slept longer were 61% less likely to be overweight aged 7.  A positive correlation between lack of sleep and increased body weight was apparent even when accounting for confounding factors such as household income (not only the poor kids with crap food got fat), fruit and vegetable intake, television watching (not only the couch potatoes got fat) and the mother’s education.
So how is sleep related to weight gain? Can it really be possible for an adult to sleep themselves thin? No more diets and exercise? Sounds too good to be true. Well let’s start by highlighting the obvious. Less sleep means more time awake = more time scoffing. Less sleep also means greater tiredness during the day = less likely to be active and more likely to make poor food choices (sugary fast releasing energy fixes). But interestingly the key link is that sleep deprivation triggers a hormonal response, sending appetite control haywire.
The hormones in question are call leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is produced by fat cells and plays a role in the regulation of appetite and metabolism – important functions for weight management. As a messenger, leptin communicates directly with the central nervous system, decreasing the “hunger signal” that the hypothalamus in the brain sends to the body. Leptin, in effect, is your body’s own natural appetite suppressant. When your leptin levels are optimal, you tend to consume less food, as well as make healthier food choices. Great. Additionally, leptin increases your metabolic rate, or energy level, so it increases thermogenesis  (fat-burning capability) therefore more calories are burned up. Double great. The hormone ghrelin does the opposite of leptin; it tells the brain that we are hungry and surprise surprise, levels of ghrelin increase when sleep is restricted.
Studies at The University of Chicago and Stanford University have proven that subjects who had trouble sleeping had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin than those who received optimal amount of sleep. When you sleep well at night, one of your body’s many jobs is to re-calibrate the levels of your hormones, including leptin and ghrelin. After a good night of restful sleep, leptin, ghrelin and many other important hormones have had enough time to be replenished and are more likely to be back to optimal levels.
● Aim for 7-9 hours per night
● Try to go to sleep at the same time every night
● Avoid caffeine, alcohol and eating large meals before bed
● Limit use of internet and TV watching in bed as it tends to stimulate our senses
● Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and natural sedative. Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains.
● Tryptophan is an amino acid (from protein) that makes the brain chemicals serotonin and melatonin involved in sleep. Snacks containing carbohydrates and proteins rich in tryptophan such whole grain crackers with warm milk or cottage cheese before bedtime may help to promote sleep.


For more nutrition advice with Jo go to Nutrition at Breathe London




Posted on February 28, 2012, in Physical Therapies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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