The secret to a great night's sleep

Why skimping on sleep could add on extra weight

Did you know that a good night's sleep is the secret ingredient to slimming down your waistline and boosting overall health? When you don't get enough sleep, your hunger and appetite increase, leading you to eat more. 

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             Image: Huffington Post

Lack of sleep causes hormone imbalances, specifically the hormones that manage hunger, appetite, and blood sugar levels. When you sleep poorly or sleep less, it affects your brain in a way that amps up your appetite for high-fat foods, according to new research recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. 

In the study, researchers tracked 34 sleep-deprived men in a sleep lab for five days and four nights, monitoring them around the clock to observe what they ate. On the first night, all participants slept for eight hours, but were not permitted to sleep a wink during the next three nights. The researchers also monitored 12 men who slept regularly throughout the study, and they administered daily MRI scans to monitor everyone's brain activity. 

The MRI scans revealed that sleep-deprived participants ate about 1,000 extra calories at night when they were awake. By day, they ate about the same number of calories as they'd eaten after a full night's rest, which means they didn't eat less to make up for the overnight surplus. Obviously, if you're awake for more hours, you have more hours to be hungry. But researchers noticed something more surprising: sleep deprivation changed the kind of foods people ate. They consumed more calories from fat and fewer calories from carbohydrates. 

Brain scans of the participants found that sleep deprivation super-charges the brain's "salience network," which connects sensory stimuli - like high-fat foods that look and smell delectable - to signals of pleasure, which ultimately guide your behaviour.

Are you struggling to get to sleep? Here are the top five tips to improve sleep from our sleep expert Dr Nerina:

  • Read a book, listen to relaxing music, have a bath and use some relaxing essential oils such as lavender to help promote sleepiness.
  • Turn off all technology such as iPads or TV, an hour before bed and use this time for less stimulating activities.
  • Try and avoid caffeine, and large amounts of food (especially sugar and carbohydrates) within three hours of bedtime, both of which can disrupt sleep. 
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially late in the day. Although some people think alcohol helps with sleep, it actually disrupts sleep and leads to more nighttime awakenings.
  • Sleep on a comfortable and clean mattress, bedding, and pillows. Make sure your mattress is supportive and that it has not exceeded its life expectancy of about 10 years.


For more sleep tips from Dr Nerina, visit our Sleep Toolkit.


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