Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep has many health benefits, but what are the risks or effects of a lack of sleep? According to recent studies, besides being irritable, unable to focus and simply tired, scientists have also found a link between undersleeping and overeating.
And it’s not just overeating. That might not be so bad if being sleep deprived meant that you ate more fruits and vegetables every day. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep triggers a chemical that leads you to gorge more on sweet and salty high-fat snack foods.
How did they find this link?
Scientists at the University of Chicago asked 14 volunteers to come in for two four-hour sessions. They split the volunteers into groups, allowing one group to sleep a full night and only allowing the other group to sleep for half the night.
The next day, the volunteers were fed the same amount of food at the same time, but the sleep deprived group reported a higher level of hunger. Plus they had a more difficult time limiting how many snacks they ate, even though the meals provided supplied 90 percent of their daily recommended caloric intake.
Not only that, the more tired subject group tended to choose foods that were higher in fat.
Researchers also measured chemicals present in the volunteers’ blood and found that there were measurable changes in chemicals that affect hunger and appetite suppression.
Two of the culprits are hormones called ghrelin, which increases appetite, and leptin, which signals to the body that it is full. The researchers at the University of Chicago also measured a blood levels of a chemical called endocannabinoids. You might recognize the root “cannabinoid” because it affects the same system in the body that the active ingredient in marijuana targets to enhance a desire for food.
In fact, there was almost a 33 percent increase, which explains why participants craved high fat snacks. Munchies anyone?
What this and other studies are beginning to show is that good sleep contributes to overall health in a very powerful way. Not only are diet and exercise important in maintaining health, getting a good night’s sleep leads to a healthier body, too.
We often sacrifice sleep when we feel like we have too much to do, and sleep is often affected when we are feeling stressed out with life. So, it’s good that more information is coming to light connecting sleep and health. That way, we can make informed choices so we can get a better night’s sleep.
To improve your chance of a good rest and, in turn, better health, ensure that you prioritize sleep. Get into the habit of going to sleep every night at the same time, create a dark, quiet and peaceful environment so your mind can relax and begin to slow down. Turn off the screens, don’t eat for a few hours before bedtime and try to come up with a method of de-stressing that works for you.
Of course, one of the keys to a good night’s sleep and increased health functioning is sleeping on a mattress that is right for you. This means finding the firmness and size that is right for your body and your sleep needs. If you have any questions about this, our knowledgeable sleep/mattress experts at M&N Mattress are happy to help.
So, if you are wondering why you are craving snacks and you realize you didn’t sleep well last night, we hope this shines some light. And we hope you get a restful sleep and get back on the path to wellness.