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The Hunger Slumber Connection

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Burning the midnight oil is a trend among the student and working community. They look at it as ‘working hard’. But others have a different take on the matter. They see it as ‘not working smart’, ‘inefficient time management’ and ‘neglect of health’. These others are not people who are totally ignorant of the taxing assignments and nerve-wracking deadlines. Yet, they call out to us to get adequate sleep and kick the habit of working through wee hours. It is time we paid heed to their advice because sleep deprivation has serious ramifications, some of which are listed in the illustration below:

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

Image via Wikipedia

If nothing else does, atleast the ‘risk of obesity’ should goad people into getting enough sleep, because even to those whom holistic health does not matter, weight and body image that come with it are major concerns. Sleep debt messes up the balance of hormones Leptin (anorexigenic factor or appetite suppressant) and Ghrelin (orexigenic factor or appetite promoter). Findings of Spiegel et al., revealed that sleep curtailment is associated with decreased leptin and increased ghrelin levels, increased hunger and appetite. The study by Taheri et al., confirmed these hormonal changes and emphasised the link between  short sleep duration and increased BMI.  An FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) study further reported  that  an acute lack of sleep may affect human’s food perception and enhance appetite. The brain’s response to food images, after a night’s sleep loss manifested as increased activation in the area involved in a desire to eat. These results were in sync with the subjects’ hunger ratings post scan. The author of the study, Christian Benedict said, “Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people’s risk to gain weight in the long run. It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight.” So, to keeps tabs on hunger and weight, also count on slumber. 

On an average, 8 hrs is the quantity of sleep that our body demands, and that period being undisturbed and at a stretch, define its quality. Split sleep – 4 hrs at night, few hours of break in between and the rest 4 hrs later in the day, though add up to a total of 8 hrs, may still not satisfy the quality criterion. Similarly slogging during weekdays without the daily quota of sleep and total dozing in the weekend, may also not compensate for the lost sleep. Installments and carrying over do not work here. Plan to get 8 straight hours of sleep every night. As an initiative to achieve this, start using clocks a little differently – to set sleep-reminders. It is important to set them consistently at an appropriate time, every night to establish a healthy sleep routine. The buzz of the reminder should alert people to wind up work and  prepare for sleep.

Practice of sleep hygiene (SH) helps in battling insomnia. Here are a few SH tips:

  • Some form of exercise, activity or sports in the day time, will tire the body to sleep at night.
  • Warm shower before going to bed will relax the body and help fall asleep.
  • Avoid watching TV, working on computers or tablets, using i-phones near bedtime. The light from them stimulate brain, keep it vigilant and prevent sleep.
  • Sleep in a dark room. The presence of light at night, interferes in the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that controls the circadian rhythm of the body. Exposure to natural light in the day time is also vital to the proper functioning of melatonin.
  • Eating a light dinner of the right quantity is important. Both over and under eating interfere with sleep. Over eating causes stomach discomfort whereas under eating, hunger pangs.
  • Avoid nicotine or caffeinated products (stimulants) and alcohol (diuretic) near bedtime, as they disrupt sleep.
  • Tryptophan rich foods may help when taken atleast an hour before bedtime, with complex carbs, low to medium protein and calcium, that favour its absorption. Tryptophan gets converted to serotonin and brings about a calming effect, conducive to sleep.

Personally, when I miss out on sound sleep at night, I walk around like a zombie the next day. Even the simplest of tasks becomes challenging to me. So, one thing I intend never to compromise on, in view of my own health, is a good night’s sleep. How about you?

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