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Understanding sleep if you struggle with excess weight

If you struggle with excess weight, insulin resistance, and/or diabetes, getting more sleep may be of significant importance.

According to recent research, poor sleep and/or lack of sleep can have a significant bearing on metabolic disorders such as these, and addressing your sleeping habits may be key for both the prevention and treatment of them.

The answer as to why sleep is so important for normalizing your metabolism has to do with its effects on your body’s circadian clocks—and yes; you have a number of circadian clocks, not just one. As noted in the featured report by NPR:3

“[I]n recent years, scientists have made a cool discovery: We have different clocks in virtually every organ of our bodies — from our pancreas to our stomach to our fat cells.

‘Yes, there are clocks in all the cells of your body,’ explains Fred Turek, a circadian scientist at Northwestern University. "‘It was a discovery that surprised many of us.’

We humans are time-keeping machines. And it seems we need regular sleeping and eating schedules to keep all of our clocks in sync.”

How Your Body Clocks Influence Your Waistline

Keeping all of these internal body clocks in sync allows your body to perform at an optimal level, and the foundation for keeping them in sync is maintaining a natural sleep-wake cycle. When your sleep schedule is erratic, a cascade of effects can occur, raising your blood pressure, altering hunger hormones, and disrupting your blood sugar control, for example. Short-term disruptions will not spell disaster for your health, although you may pay a temporary price. Short-term sleep deprivation—such as what most experience during the switchover today light savings time , for example—is associated with4 cognitive impairment, impaired performance and alertness, occupational injuries, and a raised risk for car injuries.

Chronic sleep disruptions, however, can pave the way toward metabolic dysfunction resulting in weight gain and type 2 diabetes. It also increases C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated with deadly heart attacks.

According to Turek: “What happens is that you get a total de-synchronization of the clocks within... which may be underlying the chronic diseases we face in our society today.”

Timing, it turns out, is important, and we’re not just talking about timing of sleep. The timing of your meals can also influence your metabolic function, and hence how effective your weight loss efforts might be. In one study,5 people who ate the largest meal of the day (which among this population was lunch) before 3pm lost 25 percent more weight than those who ate their main meal after 3pm. This despite the fact that the overall energy intake, dietary composition, estimated energy expenditure, and sleep duration was similar between both groups.

Basically, the various systems in your body are programmed to perform scheduled tasks at specific times during the 24 hour wake-sleep cycle, and when you consistently act against these clocks, things start breaking down as your body tries to satisfy conflicting cues and signals.


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