When You Don't Snooze, You Lose

You snooze, you lose. Weight, that is!

But when you don't snooze, you also lose. Only this time, we mean you really lose. 

People experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity. Sleep affects self-regulatory behaviors: control over one’s appetites and emotions.

And it's not only for your noggin'! Your entire body craves a good night's sleep (not just one). Recent evidence suggests that sleep loss is a risk factor for major chronic diseases, including obesity and diabetes. Let’s examine the impact on hormones, metabolism, and immune function due to insomnia:

Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

In a study published in Lancet, young, healthy participants were allowed a mere 4 hours in bed for 6 days (just reading that mandated an involuntary yawn). Fear not, for they were allowed full sleep recovery. During the study, however, post-breakfast blood glucose measured higher in the state of sleep debt (Not good new for the insomniacs), despite normal or slightly high insulin responses.

After those 6 days, the normal nocturnal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) rise took a nosedive and overall mean TSH levels fell more than 30%. Thankfully, both returned to normal when the sleep-deprived patients hit the hay once more.

Those who do not reach the six hour mark have a 13% higher mortality risk than people who sleep eight hours.
— Institute of Medicine. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. 2006

One interesting finding: "The regulation of leptin, a hormone released by the fat cells that signals satiety to the brain and thus suppresses appetite, is markedly dependent on sleep duration." Studies have found a decrease in the satiety hormone leptin and an increase in appetite-stimulating ghrelin with short sleep! Basically, if you don't catch enough Zzz's, your hormones slack off. They start giving you mixed signals about caloric need and tend to get overexcited when food is at the ready. This combination implies a link between chronic sleep loss and the obesity epidemic.

When Sleep's Just Not Happenin'

According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million U.S. adults experience some type of sleep loss or sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has declared insufficient sleep a "public health problem!" 

Sleep deprivation has been associated with poor cognitive functioning, decreased immunity, and a shorter attention span. It has also directly been linked to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, including hypertension and heart failure. That’s why at FRESH Med, sleep is one of our five pillars of wellbeing.

As we mentioned, the most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which is when you’re unable to fall asleep or remain asleep, and it’s usually the main reason people look for sleep remedies. Unfortunately, this sleep disorder is extremely common and about 50% of American adults experience it at some point in their lives. There are a variety of causes, but some of the most common are: 

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression are three of the guiltiest culprits of chronic insomnia, because stress, anger, worry, anxiousness, and negative thoughts can have a dramatic effect on sleep quality. 

Stimulants, like excessive use of caffeine, such as in energy drinks and coffee, is one of the most common causes of intermittent and transient insomnia (occurs periodically or only for a few nights at a time).

Medications can sometimes interfere with sleep, such as antidepressants, ADHD medication, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medication, some contraceptives, pain relievers that contain caffeine, diuretics, and diet pills. 

Allergies and Respiratory Problems like colds, sinus infections, and upper respiratory issues can make it hard to breathe at night, which can cause sleeping difficulties. 

Nocturia, frequent urination and constantly getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, causes sleep disturbances. 

Chronic Pain: A variety of conditions that cause chronic pain can also disrupt sleep, such as: arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, headaches, lower back pain.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

The many ways in which you could be losing instead of snoozing are daunting. But don't stress (for stress is one of those chronic insomnia culprits). Rather, check out our blog post on Sleep Hygiene for improvement strategies, or contact Dr. Rob!