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Do you need to lose weight? Then, turn off the television or computer an hour earlier and go to bed. We’re sleeping too little, experts warn. Changes in hormone levels have been linked to sleep deprivation in several studies. One hormone, cortisol, regulates metabolism of sugar, protein, fat, minerals and water. Physical or emotional stress raises cortisol levels. Lack of sleep may also raise levels at certain times of the day.
Sleep deprivation can cause an increased risk of fibromyalgia, diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as nausea and dizziness, aching muscles, memory lapses and slowed word recall, headaches, hallucinations, dry mouth, involuntary rapid eye movement, irritability and yawning. So you can see that getting enough sleep is not just a luxury—it’s a major factor that can help you maintain optimal health. And yes, more sleep could help you lose weight, but it could also reduce your risk of serious health issues later in life.
Second, higher levels of insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance, have also been linked to a shortage of sleep in several studies. Excess cortisol could be the link. Since insulin not only controls blood sugar, but also promotes fat storage, extra insulin makes weight loss more difficult. When people low on sleep find their energy dropping throughout the day, many turn to food for a instant recharge. Such foods mostly sugary in nature. The short-term rise in blood sugar gives a more energetic feeling, but often the extra calories are not needed by the body and must be stored as body fat. Furthermore, the most appealing foods when we feel low on energy are often sweets or refined carbohydrates with low nutrient density. If sleep deprivation causes insulin resistance, over consuming these types of carbohydrates may be especially problematic.
Not only is it easy to take in excess calories when sleep deprived. For many people, calorie burning decreases. If your extra waking hours are spent in sedentary activities at a desk or computer or in front of the TV, you’re not burning many more calories than when asleep. And when sleep deprived, people are often too tired to exercise. Or if they do manage to exercise, they work out less intensely than usual. For example, a rested person may walk two miles in a half-hour, while someone more fatigued may go much less. The tired person would burn fewer calories, despite walking just as long.
Sleep experts recommend at least eight hours of sleep a night for most adults. Yet most people average just less than seven hours during the workweek. In fact, a third of adults reportedly sleep no more than six-and-a-half hours nightly. Shutting off the TV an hour earlier means an hour less munching time. It could also shift your metabolism to make weight control easier. It could even leave you with more energy to exercise. Definitely, these are propositions to sleep on.
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