Many have believed and still believe that obesity and weight gain is simply a function of diet and physical activity. However, more recent research has clearly shown that other factors contribute to obesity, including genetic dispositions and sleeping habits.
In the case of sleep, deprivation leads to weight gain, which subsequently leads to more sleep issues that further stimulate even more weight gain (it can be an exceedingly frustrating cycle). This article focuses on this cycle, how it happens and possible ways to prevent or cure it.
How does a lack of sleep lead to obesity and weight gain?
Obesity is caused primarily where there is an intake of more energy than the body can consume. The absence of sleep contributes to this because it creates an imbalance in the body that increases appetite and promotes overeating.
For example, leptin and ghrelin are hormones that regulate appetite, and when you do not get enough sleep, the production of these hormones is altered to make you hungrier than usual.
Sleep deprivation also contributes to obesity by reducing growth hormones and elevating cortisol levels. Moreover, lack of sleep also impairs your metabolism of food.
Other ways a lack of sleep may lead to obesity:
Beyond the chemical effects of sleep deprivation on the body, there are other ways that lack of sleep affects the habits and behaviours of individuals, which ultimately cause weight gain. They include:
- Increase in the selection of high-calorie foods by individuals
- Less exercise, possibly because sleep loss makes you drowsy and tired during the day.
It is important to note that children are not exempted from this. Research has shown that children who suffer from lack of sleep and low sleep quality are more at risk of being overweight.
How does obesity affect sleep?
Research has made it clear that overweight individuals have far more trouble getting to sleep than others. They also suffer more from fatigue and sleepiness during the daytime than the average person, even in situations where they sleep all through the night undisturbed.
Furthermore, the metabolic processes or sleep-wake cycles of obese people may change in ways that adversely affect sleep quality. Sleep quality can also be affected by the physical effects of carrying excess weight.
Several sleep issues and illnesses are also more common among individuals who suffer from obesity. For instance, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is seven more times more likely to occur in individuals that are obese, and the symptoms of the disorder are more severe in overweight individuals. Other examples include:
- Obesity can be a significant cause or aggravator of depression, which is a major cause of insomnia. Research has shown that insomnia comes along with depression 75% of the time.
- It has been established that obesity is a risk factor for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD is a chronic condition characterised by leakage of stomach contents into the oesophagus, resulting in symptoms such as heartburn).
- Obesity facilitates and causes a vicious cycle of depression, pain and disturbed sleep with osteoarthritis ( a disorder in the joints).
- Obesity exacerbates asthma symptoms.
Useful tips on how to get good sleep even if you’re overweight
All the tips that we will be sharing in this section revolve around the concept of sleep hygiene. Your sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that affect and determine the quality of your sleep.
Therefore, poor sleep hygiene will lead to poor sleep while the otherwise is valid for good sleep hygiene. The following tips guarantee good sleep hygiene and consequently better sleep.
1. Exercise regularly: This has been shown from research to help individuals sleep better, especially those dealing with sleep disorders. In addition, you should choose outdoor exercise as it helps expose you to sunlight that promotes a healthy sleep and wake cycle.
2. Eat wisely: Many people are unaware that diet and nutrition are also integral to sleep hygiene. Therefore, they don't realise that maintaining a balanced diet may help sleep.
However, it does, and researchers have proof. For example, studies have found that a diet high in carbohydrates may make you sleep less deeply.
Furthermore, the timing of eating is also critical. A study showed that eating 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime was associated with poorer sleep patterns.
3. Create an environment that supports sleep: Your bedroom, your mattress and bedding should all be optimised to guarantee restful and quality sleep.
For instance, the recommended room temperature for good sleep is 18.3 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit). Your mattress and bedding should also be comfortable and scientifically designed to help your body sleep well.
4. Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Doing so will strengthen your body's sleep cycle (internal clock).
As a result, you will have an easier time falling asleep and waking up. Keeping a consistent schedule may also reduce daytime sleepiness. You should select a fixed bedtime that allows you to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
5. Don’t drink too much caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant, so it can keep you awake even when you'd prefer to sleep. Therefore, it is better to limit your caffeine intake to morning hours only if you must consume caffeine.
You can feel the effects of caffeine for up to seven hours after consuming it. Thus, if you drink coffee in the afternoon, you may find yourself staying awake and alert for longer than you intended.
However, remember that everyone's caffeine tolerance is different. There may be people who can consume until mid-afternoon, while others may have to cut back way earlier to sleep well.
Sleep and obesity can form a vicious cycle, and it is best prevented than cured. However, even if you’re dealing with it already, don’t lose hope. Just remember that alongside diet and exercise, your sleep also matters.
No matter what stage you are at, better sleep hygiene is always a good decision, and your mattresses and bedding are vital. You need materials that are designed to guarantee a relaxing and rich sleeping experience. An example of such is our cooling bamboo set, designed with materials that make each sleep a blissful experience.