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The Missing Link in Weight-Loss, Rest is Best
You’ve likely heard it before and probably more than once, that a good night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold. Well, it couldn’t be more true than when we’re looking at the relationship between sleep, diet and exercise. For many of us, we hit January with iron-fast resolutions to change our diet and get our exercise routines on track, determined (accurately or not!) to hit the summer looking like the front-cover of a swimsuit mag. Sadly, though, many of us get a month or so into our new programs and our stalwart resolve lies crumpled beneath us, tossed to the side like last week’s front page news. We worked harder than ever this year to fit it all in, even stayed up later or got up earlier and it still didn’t happen. Stop berating yourself over what you may feel is inherent weakness, and look to the fact that there may very likely be some key biochemical and hormonal issues affecting your success. Numerous studies show that sleep deprivation results in a lot more than just a crummy attitude – obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer are all linked to a lack of good quality zees.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythms are complex biochemical, physiological and behavioural processes that function on a daily clock, roughly 24 hours. They govern the sleep/wake cycles, feeding patterns and energy expenditures of all living beings, including humans. In a very strict sense, they are created endogenously (within our bodies) but are strongly influenced by environmental cues such as light and temperature.
The control center of our circadian rhythm is a teeny area of the brain called the supra-chiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, housed within the hypothalamus (a key component of our endocrine or hormonal system). The machinery of this 24 hour clock, however, is not isolated to our grey matter, but exists within every cell of the body. It is auto-regulated through a complex interplay of genes, diet, environmental and hormonal factors, with our hormones being what ultimately control the bottom line.
Are our hormones calling the shots?
Our day-to-day rhythm is governed by hormonal cycles in perfect balance — such as cortisol juxtaposed with melatonin, leptin with ghrelin. Melatonin stands opposite cortisol in the drumbeat of our night and day cycle. It is secreted by the pineal gland in complete darkness, which, prior to industrialized society with its’ ample night light and evening activity, would have been by 10 pm virtually anywhere on the globe. Melatonin functions at night to not only regulate our sleep / wake cycle, it plays an important role as an anti-oxidant countering the effects of inflammation. A lack of good-quality sleep means a lack of melatonin resulting in greater inflammation, which is now recognized as a primary cause of numerous disease states. And most pertinent to this article, is the role inflammation plays in obesity.
Two other hormones playing a key role in weight management that are also affected by sleep quantity and quality are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is often thought of as the ‘satiety’ hormone, as it decreases appetite. Secreted by adipocytes, it is responsible for our sense of feeling ‘sufficiently saphonsified’ and is normally found in higher concentrations in the evening, which serves to curb our late-night appetite. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is secreted by our stomach cells to increase appetite. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine when study subjects were deprived of sleep for two days, their blood leptin levels decreased by 18%, while their ghrelin increased by 28%. Subjects reported an increase in hunger (24%) with carbohydrate rich foods being the most craved items (32%).
Knowledge is Key
So now that you know it may be your chemistry not your resolve that is failing you, the best thing you can do to rectify the situation is get a good night’s sleep. This is truly a situation where you have already done enough, so tuck yourself in, for rest is best!