A surprising effect of sleep loss is weight gain, among other things. Sleep loss can be caused just because we live with all the stresses of the modern world. Our bosses ask for more and more of our time, families require trips to dance class or band practice, and our “always connected” lives keep us online and working at all hours.
One of the more pernicious effects of weight gain is that it can cause sleep apnea, which can cause more weight gain. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissues of the throat close, causing a loss of oxygen and waking the sleeper, allowing them to breathe again. The sleeper falls asleep again, and the whole cycle restarts, sometimes as often as 150 times per hour.
All of this time will bring about not only weight gain, but Type II Diabetes as well. Diabetes and sleep problems are very interrelated. Diabetes can cause sleep loss because as the body tries to get rid of excess blood sugar by urinating, the diabetic is awakened throughout the night to use the bathroom.
All of this awake time can cause people to eat more because they are so tired and need to get energy from somewhere, usually from high sugar foods which exacerbate the elevated blood sugar level. Our hormones, leptin and ghrelin, are affected by our sleeping patterns. The former tells us when to stop eating and the latter tells us to eat more. Unfortunately, when we are sleep deprived our body produces less of leptin and more of ghrelin, forcing us to eat more – thus causing weight gain.
As you can see, this vicious cycle is extremely detrimental, and the results can be devastating to overall health and well-being. Stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, and depression are just some of the life-threatening problems that result from weight gain and sleep loss.
Generally, humans need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night and it’s not often the case that we can survive on 6 or less, even though many hard-driving entrepreneurs in our culture believe they can survive on little or no sleep and keep going indefinitely. This personality type risks the health problems that result from sleep loss, including weight gain and Type II Diabetes.
Test yourself to determine whether you’re getting enough sleep. Don’t use an alarm clock one morning and find out if you wake up without it. If not, you’re sleep deprived because your brain will wake you up when you’ve had enough sleep.
Another way to determine whether your sleep is adequate is to gauge the number of times that it’s necessary to get up and use the bathroom. If you get up multiple times during the night, you are likely either sleep deprived, have a case of sleep apnea, or are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Sleep apnea causes frequent waking and doesn’t allow the body to really get genuine rest. This, in turn increases bodily waste because it is working throughout the night. Alternatively, diabetes or high blood sugar increases the need to urinate because the body is attempting to get rid of the excessive sugar.
The lesson to be learned from this is that the body requires a certain amount of sleep and if we don’t get it there will be a price to pay, either in our health or our performance during the day. Sleep well and maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of diabetes and health problems.