Sleep Patterns and Weight Gain

It is well known that inadequate physical activty and poor nutritional practices are associated with unhealthy weight gain. However, did you know that another important risk factor increasing unhealthy weight gain, and obesity, is too little sleep? In fact, when you stop to think about it, it is not a difficult association to grasp. Nonetheless, it is perhaps one aspect of our health that is compromised on a frequent basis. At 20 years of age, I felt ten foot tall, bullet proof, could drink anything, eat anything, and stay up all night, and, on many occasions, do it all again the next day. Yet, despite that being the case, my life at 29, with 3 children, is a far cry from what I remember at 20. These days, if I miss sleep, I feel it. However, what is most disheartening is that sleep cannot be caught up on. I hear many clients state that they sleep few hours during the week, but, sleep in on Sundays. This practice may be of benefit in the short term, yet, in the long term is unsustainable. If we use the analogy of a mobile phone and relate this to the foregoing sleep habits, you would not expect your mobile phone to stay charged for the week, simply by charging it on a Sunday. Your body works in a similar way.

More than one-third of Adults and 17 percent of children in Australia are considered obese. In the past three decades obesity rates for adults doubled while rates for children tripled. Sleep deprivation (lack of quality sleep) is a major driver of not only inadequate health, but of particular note, unhealthy weight gain and obesity. Moreover, once obese, sleep duration is further compromised. Several studies suggest that short sleep duration, defined as less than 5 hours of sleep per night for adults, and less than 11 hours per night for children under 5, is consistently associated with obesity in children and young adults. However, there are several reasons as to why this occurs: firstly, short sleep duration leads to changes to our metabolism and hormones. For example, in even young healthy men and women sleep curtailment has been clearly shown to increase the hormone that drives appetite (grehlin), yet, at the same time, decreases our natural appetite suppressor, leptin. For mother's all over the world, is it not surprising that you find it difficult to shift weight when your body self sabotages itself, due to lack of sleep. Secondly, as a result of sleep deprivation, fatigue will increase, and turn, so to will inactivity. Finally, being awake for longer allows more opportunity to eat, coupled with the fact that sleep deprivation may influence your choice of food. At 3 a.m. in the morning, after a long night out, quinoa with salad is not as inviting as a Kebab from the oasis. Yet, what is most impacting to me is the state of our childrens health.

Media use, that is the use of television and consoles, is heavily associated with short sleep duration and obesity in infants, children and adolescents around the world. In fact, in a recent study a combination of short sleep duration and high levels of television (2.5 hours plus/day) in infants predicted a 17 percent chance of being overweight by age 3. By comparision, the overweight child at ages 3 to 5, has a 47 percent chance of being considered obese at age 15. At age 15 this adolescent is expected to be watching greater than 6 hours of television daily. The same amount of time that they are school, most likely sitting. Given the foregoing prediction alone, it is of little surprise to find ourselves carrying excess weight as adults. Particularly, when the habits we create during adolescence continue into adulthood-do you have a television in your bedroom? Outside, of neurological health concerns that can significantly influence our mental and physical health, I would also suggest that a lifetime of the foregoing experiences play a key role in how we feel, both emotionally and physically.

It is suffice to say that our sleep is vital to healthy living, and in relation to what is considered an optimal amount of sleep, research suggests 6 to 9 hours. Moreover, it is suggested that for your cells to repair themselves, a minimum of 7 hours is necessary.

At this point, you may still have some questions, such as: I cannot get to sleep anyway, so what can I do?; and/or, what else is driving my weight and is there something I can do about it? If these are the questions you are asking, and if you are tired of being tired, write to me at and/or make an appointment to see me,

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