Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stress and Lack of Sleep May Contribute to Weight Gain

Anna Boom

How many days a week do you run or workout? How many calories do you burn during those runs? Do you ever wake up long before the rest of the house, or even the sun in order to get those extra miles in? Or maybe you stay up late, trying to get everything done before the next day begins.

Now, how many nights do you get adequate sleep? Currently that is set around 8 solid hours. And research is pointing to how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain.

What?! Seems unfair that waking up early so we can run can also be a reason that we gain weight, doesn't it?

Here is how it works: when we don't sleep enough, we put our bodies into a stress mode, in turn putting us into alarm mode, which makes us put out more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin (the enzyme produced by stomach lining cells that stimulate appetite). It also makes us decrease the output of satiety hormone, leptin (produced by fatty tissue and believed to regulate fat storage in the body) so we get hit both by being hungrier and also not feeling as satisfied.

There is also research into the taste of high calorie foods, when you are in alarm mode, as in they are tastier and you crave them.

And those late night fast food tv ads are just like the commercials they show on the kids channels--designed to bombard you with images that tell your brain how much you need that thing. A sleep deprived brain sees that and can't resist the high calorie quick energy fix. The average number of additional calories that sleep deprived people eat every day, compared to well rested is

So am I saying you skip the next 6AM WOOT run? No way! Instead, try and get to bed early the night before. Of all the work we put into improving ourselves, the easiest health improvement that gives huge benefits, is getting enough sleep. Dishes, laundry, picking up can wait til the morning. After our WOOT run, that is!


Anna raises an important point, and one which I'm sure has caused many of you to start calculating how many hours of sleep you're getting each night! Hormones are great, when everything's humming along nicely, but as you read above, they can also wreak havoc on our health (and weight) when we create scenarios that throw them off balance. And here's where the sleep-deprivation issue gets even drearier - add to that a life filled with excessive amounts of stress, and you're going to fire off yet another weight-inducing hormone; the stress hormone known as cortisol.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands when the body experiences elevated levels of stress. It's presence during stressful or dangerous situations is to provide extra energy (flight or fight response), and it does so by assisting other hormones in the breaking down of fats and carbohydrates. Energy stores are conserved through a loss of appetite, as our bodies enter a state of alertness.

Later however, when stress levels have returned to normal, cortisol appears again, but this time in an attempt to restore energy levels that may have been depleted during the threat response. The problem though, is that a noticeable increase in appetite will be experienced, even if little or no energy was expended. In other words, you may end up gaining weight that was never lost in the first place!

So, in summing up, the advice that Anna and I have for you is this:

  • Get a good night's sleep (as often as possible)
  • Continue to regularly exercise/run (with WOOT!!!)
  • Keep stress levels to a minimum (or at least, try to manage the stressful situations that you have some control over)

And one last thing to keep in mind - stress and lack of sleep also adversely affect how you look, feel, and act. Picture the mom who drops her kid/s off at school, still clothed in her pajamas, hair looking wild, and a clearly agitated look as she pulls away from the curb and glares at the driver who she just cut in front of. I don't know about you, but I kind of know that woman (I may even be that woman, occasionally) - and if I can help it, I'd like to stay clear of her!

No comments:

Post a Comment