With the weekend fast approaching, all of our minds are no doubt starting to wander to the prospect of kicking back and unwinding from the week that was. For some, this involves a cup of cocoa by the fireplace, while others are anticipating dancing the night away into the early hours of the next morning. However, before you commit to a wild night out on the town, you might want to ask yourself two questions -
- Am I getting enough sleep during the week?
- What are the consequences of yet another sleepless night on my body?
I’m sure we’ve all experienced the impaired functioning associated with sleep deprivation. Research has found that individuals lacking in sleep are affected to a large degree both in cognitive (mental) and motor (physical) performance but also in mood (Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). What we often CAN’T ‘feel’ is the impact that sleep loss plays in diabetes and / or obesity. This is because of the gradual onset of these conditions, in comparison with the immediate drop in something like physical performance.
Current data indicates the relationship between sleep restriction, weight gain and increased risk of Type II diabetes works by:
- Impairing the body’s ability to metabolise (use) glucose.
Studies investigating the extent of this impairment found sleep deprivation led to a whopping 30-40% drop in glucose metabolism, coupled with a handy increase in cortsol levels (stress hormone). Considering high cortisol can lead to insulin resistance, obesity and muscle breakdown, not getting your ‘8 hours’ really does set you up for failure if you have any sort of health goals in mind.
This also presents bad news to those of us striving for longevity as lowered glucose metabolism is a phenomenon normally witnessed in the elderly. This has led researchers to speculate that extended sleep deprivation could potentially increase aging.
- Lowering ‘leptin’ and increasing ‘ghrelin’ levels.
Leptin is the hormone responsible for inhibiting hunger and increasing bodily energy expenditure, while ghrelin has the opposite effect. Thus, sleep deprivation leads to an increase in hunger / appetite and a decrease in how much energy your body expends.
Sleep is a vital process for effective performance and functioning as well as long-term health and physical aesthetics. The solution is as simple as making the effort to manage your time effectively to ensure you’re in bed a few hours earlier. Naturally, nobody would ever counsel you to forsake your social life. However, moderation is key. If you can’t manage 8 hours; taking alternative steps to increase insulin sensitivity such as weight training, supplementing and altering your diet appropriately may be of some benefit.
Knutston, K.L., Spiegel, K., Penev, P., & Van Cauter, E. (2007). The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 11(3), 163-178.
Spiegel, K., Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. (1999). Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. The Lancet, 354:1435-1439.
Penev, P.(2007). Association between sleep and morning testosterone levels in older men. Sleep, 30(4):427-432.