Be Sure to Get Your ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ’s!

Posted on October 31, 2010 by

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Christy Ewing

Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation.  We sleep as much as one quarter less than our ancestors did with average total sleep time decreasing from 9 hours in 1900 to less than 7 hours over the past 10 years.  In 2001, researchers found that sleeping less than 6 hours per night and remaining awake past midnight increased the likelihood of obesity.  In 2002, a study of 1.1 million people found that an increased body mass index occurred when habitual sleep amounts fell below 7-8 hours.  Now there is more recent data that supports these earlier studies.

A study published in the February 2010 issue of Sleep found that men who slept less than 5 hours per night were twice as likely to become overweight than those who slept 7-8 hours per night.  Men who slept 5-6 hours per night were 1.5 times more likely to become overweight.  The reason for this most likely is because sleep restriction reduces the hormone leptin and increases the hormone ghrelin.  Leptin, an appetite suppressant, was reduced by 18%, while ghrelin, which increases appetite, was increased by 28%.  Subjects also showed an increased appetite for calorie dense foods with high carbohydrate content.

Our culture has changed drastically from the 1900’s. Today we live in a 24 hour world that allows us to work and play at anytime.  Consequently most people now sleep less than they need and this is contributing to our obesity epidemic.  Sleep deprivation does not have any good side effects and the negative ones are numerous, including weight gain, impaired immune system and decreased alertness and ability to focus.  So, your mother was right when she told you to get a good night’s sleep, now it is just time to listen and pay attention to our bodies.