You already know that poor or abbreviated sleep makes you feel lousy and impairs daytime performance. It also amplifies appetite, particularly for snacks, making poor sleep a weight gain factor all by itself. People who chronically lack sleep can easily gain 10, 20, or 30 pounds over the course of a year just from this effect.
Sleep deprivation has numerous health implications beyond just crabbiness and daytime sleepiness. The physiologic disruptions of sleep deprivation include increased risk for high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Poor sleep can even contribute to risk for dementia (with greater brain plaque deposition from sleep deprivation) and increase mortality. For example, people who habitually sleep less than 6 hours per night (except the occasional person who functions perfectly well on such quantities) experience increased likelihood of earlier death, particularly cardiovascular death. Sleep can literally be, at least over an extended time period, a life or death matter.
You have to face a basic health truth: If you compromise on quantity or quality of sleep, you will not lose weight. Sleep deprivation has numerous health implications beyond just crabbiness and daytime sleepiness. The physiologic disruptions of sleep deprivation include increased risk for high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Lack of sleep increases cortisol and insulin, impairs the effects of insulin, and effects appetite-regulating hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. Remember, the hormone leptin is meant to shut off appetite when the physical need to eat has been satisfied. This results in an increased calorie intake of 300 to 559 calories per day. Interestingly, increased calories tend to come not from increased portion sizes at meals, but from an increase in snacking.
Compound the increased appetite and caloric intake with the overlapping effects of opiates from grains, and you have a powerfully effective way to gain a substantial amount of weight very quickly. Adequate sleep after grain elimination is therefore crucial to gaining control over hormonal status and appetite and allows weight loss to occur.
And the less sleep you get, the worse it gets, starting with just a single night of reduced sleep. Several days per week of lost sleep can, therefore, yield a substantial impact on appetite and calorie intake. If you do the arithmetic, three nights a week of poor sleep can add 22 pounds of weight gain over the course of a year.
How much sleep is enough for overall health and to gain control overweight? It varies from individual to individual, but most people require 7 ½ hours every night. After several days of reduced sleep, a “sleep debt” accumulates that magnifies the metabolic distortions that contribute to weight gain and unhealthy effects. One night of adequate sleep does not fully pay down the sleep debt. Several days of full sleep beyond the usual 7 ½ hours may be required to normalize glucose, insulin, cortisol, and leptin distortions.
Normal, uninterrupted sleep occurs in 90-minute cycles (e.g., 6 hours, 7 ½ hours, 9 hours) that allow your brain to cycle through all sleep phases, from light sleep to the deepest phases, including rapid eye movement (REM) sleep filled with dreams. Because it’s best to adhere to this normal cycling of sleep, set your clock or alarm to a quantity of time that adheres to this rhythm, as it will increase daytime alertness and mood.
There are also several devices now available that can wake you gently at a set time using, for instance, increasingly bright light, sound, or vibration. Smartphone apps are also appearing, often coupled to a device (such as the Lark wristband or the UP system by Jawbone) to gently awaken you after tracking both your sleep behavior and quality over the preceding night.