We have all heard of “beauty sleep,” but the impact of sleep quality and quantity goes way beyond our physical appearance. Research has begun to clearly delineate the importance of getting a good nights rest on health, so maybe we should start talking about “healthy sleep.”
A few facts for you from a National Sleep Foundation Poll:
* 1 in 3 American adults report having sleep problems.
* The percentage of young American adults sleeping less than 7 hours has doubled over the last 40 years.
* Cumulative sleep loss over the work week for many adults may account to one full night of sleep loss.
What do these statistics mean to me?
Research has demonstrated that sleep deprivation negatively affects several important hormones that directly regulate our appetite and metabolism. Our bodies are innately programmed to regulate our energy balance, essentially matching the energy we take in with the energy we expend.
The yin and yang of energy balance are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a protein that is produced mainly by the stomach that stimulates appetite; it is why your stomach growls when you are hungry. On the other hand, leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that signals when you are full (sometimes it’s hard to listen to this one!). Several research studies on sleep deprivation have shown that leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase in response to a lack of sleep, which causes an increase in appetite (specifically for high-calorie and high-salt food) throughout the day. In a review of long-term research studies, short sleep duration is associated with a risk of being overweight or obese in the future.
Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase the release of stress hormones, specifically cortisol, which decreases the body’s sensitivity to insulin (a regulator of blood sugar). An elevation in stress hormone levels may also elevate blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. Just as lack of sleep may be risk factors for these conditions, it may also make them more difficult to control so improving sleep may also be a valuable treatment.
Living in the “city that never sleeps” can make it difficult to shut it down at night. The good news is that it will still be there when you wake up! If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, please talk to your doctor to evaluate if there is a possible medical reason.
Good night and sleep tight!
Information provided by Gregory B. Dodell, MD, an Endocrinologist ta St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals.