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Health Articles

Sleep and Your Diet

 

By Joseph Packo

 

Throughout our lives we’ve been told time and again to become healthier by eating right and exercising more. Everything we see in advertisements, on talk shows, and in all the newest diet fads confirms the changes we need to make to lose weight and feel better. So we cut back on the junk foods, try to eat right, and take up jogging, biking, and going to the gym regularly. One problem remains: we still feel tired, agitated, and sometimes unmotivated to get to our next workout session. Our weight loss plateaus and suddenly we realize that all the hard work we’ve put into our diet and exercise regimen isn’t accomplishing everything we set out to do in the first place. What is our problem?

Sleep. We’re not getting enough of it. There are so many distractions and time-wasters in our lives these days. We turn on the streaming movie as we cozy up in bed each night. We have tablets and laptops and cell phones within reach at all times. Those tiny, bright little screens in the dark of our bedrooms keep our brains overly active far into the night. We go for drinks at happy hour with friends and coworkers, stay out too late, and eat late. All of these things upset the natural balance in our lives to get even healthier, happier, and reach those fitness goals we set for ourselves. Sleep helps us stay on task each day, helps with our memory, and affects our moods. A good night of sleep is also associated with your weight, energy levels, and health.

Studies show that almost 18 million people in America suffer from sleep apnea, which occurs when a person repeatedly stops breathing while sleeping. It hurts the ability to have a full night of deep sleep and can also cause major health problems such as stroke, heart attack, and mental fog during the day. Many times, sleep apnea develops due to obesity. The neck and chest area are thicker and create difficulty breathing. This vicious cycle of a poor night of sleep and feeling tired the next day is a recipe for continued obesity, as individuals dealing with sleep apnea will not be motivated to stick with a diet and exercise routine that would ultimately help with a better nights rest and weight loss.

An experiment at the University of Chicago dealing with sleep deprivation was conducted in which college students slept only 4 hours per night for a week. At the conclusion of the week, it was noted that the healthy young adults had developed insulin and glucose levels on par with diabetics. This experiment also showed that food is related to sleep, metabolism and appetite. If we don’t sleep enough each night, our levels of leptin drop (which is a hormone that regulates our appetites). This causes us to have a larger appetite and we end up eating more foods throughout the course of the next day.

Everything in our biological systems are tied together. When we sleep too little our appetite increases, we gain weight and can develop sleep disorders that will continuously cause us to have ever worsening nights of rest. We won’t be motivated the next day to exercise and get healthier, and the cycle becomes harder and harder to break free from.

How much sleep do we need to be healthy? The Mayo Clinic recommends that too much more or less than seven hours of sleep per night can increase mortality rate and contribute to health problems. The best way to find out how much sleep works for you is to record how long you slept and compare it with how you felt mentally and physically the following day. Adjust your sleep time accordingly over the next few nights to identify how much you need to feel better.

Recommended hours of sleep by age bracket:

Infants: 9-10 hours per night, 3 hours of naps during day

Toddlers: 9-10 hours per night, 2-3 hours of naps during day

School Age Children: 9-11 hours per night

Adults: 7-8 hours per night

Pregnancy, aging, patterns of sleep deprivation, and the quality of sleep are all factors that may require you to keep track of your sleep and adjust how much is needed on an individual basis.

 

Joseph is a Certified ITG Wellness Coach at ITG Diet Corporate Headquarters in Saint Petersburg, Florida.

 

Sources:

http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep/page/0%2C3/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898

 

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