Is lack of sleep making you fat and ill?

Your email flickers “$89 domestic flights to Melbourne” your right-hand hovers over and clicks. 2 minutes later the credit card is out and your flights have been purchased, 2 x red eye tickets to Melbourne.

It’s now 1245am and your sitting in the airport questioning why in hell you’ve purchased the cheapest tickets you could find. You look at your best mate and his eyes are barely opened, this was stupid idea.

If you haven’t worked it out yet I’m the idiot who purchased the tickets and Jacob stupidly agreed to come along for the ride.

It’s only now that I realise how important sleep is for the body. Generally, I get 8 hours of sleep religiously, but tonight I’ll be stoked with four hours cramped between an oversized Asian and an overweight man in his 40s.

As I sit back reflecting on how much I’d love to be curled up in bed, I’ve started pondering about humans that habitually get 5 or so hours of sleep a night and wonder why their health is in such poor condition.

Sleep is made up of a few different stages, here’s a brief overview of all the things you need to know.

When we first drift off to sleep, we enter non REM sleep, this is made up of 4 stages.

Stage - 1 is when we drift into light sleep, our muscles begin to relax and often contract suddenly.

Stage 2 - our eye movements stop and our brain waves slow even further.

Stage 3 or deep sleep - our brain begins to produce delta waves; these waves operate at a frequency of 0-4Hz which is the slowest of all brain waves.

REM – Breathing rate increases and our eyes begin to move rapidly while our heart rate increases. This is the stage where dreams mostly occur if awoken during REM you can remember your dreams.

Delta Waves – Everyone loves waves and you should especially love delta waves. Why are these delta waves so dam important? Delta waves stimulate the release of some essential recovery hormones.

GHRH (growth hormone releasing hormone) stimulates the pituitary gland to release growth hormone & prolactin which helps promote recovery & restoration.

Not getting enough sleep can make you fat, hungry and sick!

Two hormones that act to balance our appetite and signal when we need to eat and when to stop eating. Ghrelin is predominately a stomach deprived peptide that stimulates hunger while leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that suppresses hunger. In obese individuals, we usually see elevated levels of ghrelin and reduced levels of leptin. Now if you think about that point, increased levels of ghrelin only fuels the need to binge eat which results in increased hunger constantly and a lack of feeling satisfied after eating.

The bit that's really interesting is that a lack of sleep has a direct correlation to elevated ghrelin levels and also BMI. A study which investigated 1,024 volunteers found that there was a U shaped association between sleep duration and BMI. Participants who slept under 8 hours showed increased BMIs which was proportional to sleep duration. So with that being said, is sleep the missing piece of the puzzle that’s stopping you from shredding that body fat you so desperately dont want?

Another study which investigated the effects of four hours sleep on healthy men and women found that partial sleep deprivation results in insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways. Now for folk who have no idea what that means. In plain English your body is struggling to remove glucose from the blood and use it as energy. This results in a gradual build-up of glucose and plague in the blood which leads to unwanted body fat and type II diabetes, two things I guarantee you don’t want.

Anyway, that’s enough of me nerding out on you. All I want you to do is stop discounting how important sleep is for the body and enjoy it. It’s often the missing key to reaching your goals and something that most personal trainers forget to address.



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