It’s true: sleep is vital for a healthy metabolism. In a jolting study that really grabbed my attention, scientists found that a single night of sleep loss impaired metabolism on par with eating a high-fat diet for six months! We know from past studies that both poor sleep and high-fat diets can impair the action of the all-important metabolic hormone insulin, which can lead to the entire family metabolic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
For this study, scientists used a canine model to compare the effects of a single night of sleep loss versus the consumption of a high fat,high-calorie diet for six months, and looked at how they affected insulin’s ability to function properly. And here were the eye-opening findings-a single night of sleep deprivation impaired insulin action by 33%, while chowing down on a fatty diet for six months impaired insulin by 21%. To add insult to injury, we already know that poor sleep can boost appetite and decrease our activity levels.
Bottom line: Sleep is VITAL for weight control and overall health so make it a sacred priority in your life.
-Strive to get at least seven hours of restful sleep a night. Some people do even better with eight.
-Make the room you sleep in as dark, cool, and quiet as possible. Also keep it free of any electronics that can emit light or noise like a TV, tablet, phone, or computer.
-Avoid vigorous exercise or eating within two hours before bed, as these can stimulate you and prevent restful sleep.
-Try a soothing chamomile tea, meditating, or another relaxing practice that works for you to get your head and body ready for bed. Sex has been shown to encourage more restful sleep.
-Strive to maintain the same sleep and awaken times day to day. According to the sleep experts, this practice is likely the most beneficial of all strategies to improve the quality of your sleep.
-Avoid close exposure to the backlighting from a computer, tablet, or smart-phone an hour or two before bed. One recent study noted a significant decrease in the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin after exposure to this artificial light.
-Get regular daily exercise. I am convinced that restful sleep is virtually impossible without a certain threshold level of daily physical activity (at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking).
-Minimize the use of prescription sleep aids. They do not allow for restful, “normal” sleep and can predispose one to dependence.
-Spend some time outdoors each day to get exposed to natural light. This is helpful in maintaining normal diurnal rhythms, which are fundamental to health and restful sleep. Morning light (before 10 AM) appears to be particularly beneficial in this regard and has less skin-damaging UV rays.
-Consider consuming a serving any of the following foods closer to your bedtime: kiwi, walnuts, almonds, peanut butter, or tart cherry juice. There is some evidence that these foods may enhance sleep.
-Cut back on your dietary sodium. This decreases nocturnal urination that interferes with restful sleep.
-Minimize use of alcohol. It is well established that alcohol interferes with quality sleep, particularly REM sleep. Ideally, limit alcohol to one or fewer drinks a night, and avoid any alcohol within three hours of going to bed
-Avoid use of products (ideally after 2 PM) containing caffeine or other stimulants, for example, coffees, teas, sodas, energy drinks, etc.
(The Obesity Society Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA. 2015)