Getting enough quality time with your pillow is more important than you might think. People who are chronically sleep deprived suffer from more than just baggy, bloodshot eyes. Research is showing that people getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep are more likely to be overweight and have diabetes.
Have you ever noticed that when you don’t sleep well you tend to crave carbs or sweets? It’s not just you! What we now know is having regular sleep cycles keeps a bunch of hormones in check. Have you heard of the hormones Leptin, Ghrelin and Cortisol? Leptin tells us that we are full and satisfied, and do not need more food. Ghrelin tells us to eat! It’s part of what makes our stomachs grumble. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released when we are full of anxiety, sleep deprived or running away from danger. Having increased levels or Cortisol is linked to chronic fatigue, weight gain and elevated blood sugar levels.
When you don’t get enough sleep all of these hormones (and others) get out of whack. Leptin doesn’t get released like it should, and Ghrelin is increased. This means you are hungry! Not only that, but you are definitely not craving broccoli at this point.
New research out of UC Berkley showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way a person’s brain responded to high calorie junk foods. On days when individuals had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.
Basically what this means is when you lose sleep your brain gets a double hit. A sleepy brain appears to not only respond more strongly to junk food, but also has less ability to rein that impulse in.
In addition to all of that “good” news, being in a sleep deprived state also increases your blood sugar levels. This is due to that other hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is released when we’re under stress and part of its job is to make sure our muscles have energy to run away from danger. Cortisol doesn’t know that we’re stressed because your significant other kept you up all night snoring. It just knows your body is stressed out and that means danger! To ensure your muscles have the energy they need to flee this danger (snoring partners excluded) cortisol provides you with increased blood sugar. Unfortunately, cortisol can also make it difficult to sleep at night creating a loop of stress for you.
To break the cycle of stress and poor sleep it’s important to have a good evening time ritual. Follow these tips for more restful sleep: