Archive for the tag - sleep

Late Bedtimes and Less Sleep Lead to Weight Gain.

couch potato catYou’ve probably heard the age-old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I’m not sure about the wealthy or wise part, but healthy – at least, according to a growing amount of research – has some truth.

Researchers from the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania published a study in the July issue of SLEEP; it’s the largest and most diverse healthy-sample study ever conducted in laboratory conditions. For the study, 225 healthy participants were recruited for up to 18 days in the laboratory. The participants were broken into two groups and either spent only 4 hours in bed for five consecutive nights or 10 hours in bed for five consecutive nights. Throughout the study, meals were served and food was readily available.

When researchers crunched the data, they discovered that the sleep-restrictive group ate a significantly larger amount of calories due to late-night calorie consumption. During their extra awake time, the participants ate… and ate. And ate some more. Moreover, the proportion of calories from fat was higher during late night snacking.

Though it’s totally possible and very healthy to snack on celery sticks or carrots, the data shows that we’re less likely to make those choices late at night. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s not when you eat, but what you’re eating – and how much of it – that counts most.

In other words, it’s always important to be mindful of your food choices, but this is especially true at night. Don’t fall for a case of the mindless munchies!

Does Sleeping Make You Lose Weight?

Any personal trainer will tell you that good sleeping habits help support a healthy lifestyle. Getting adequate sleep helps us feel rested and energized. The downtime also gives our bodies a chance to recover from exercise and repair our muscles. But it’s also believed that there’s a link between adequate sleep and bodyweight – specifically, that deceasing one’s sleep increases the risk of weight gain and diabetes.

In a new study, researchers from the German Universities Tubingen and Lubeck and Uppsala University in Sweden examined the effects of short-term sleep deprivation on hunger, physical activity and the body’s energy expenditure.

According to the findings, sleep deprivation increased both self-reported hunger and levels of ghrelin (known as “the hunger” hormone) for participants. The less sleep that participants received, the greater their hunger. Because sleep-deprived individuals are hungrier, it’s very likely that they consume more food and a greater number of calories than their well-rested and less hungry counterparts.

Not surprisingly, physical activity also diminished with less sleep. When we’re tired and fatigued, we tend to move around a lot less – and thus, burn fewer calories. Researchers also found that staying awake all night also resulted in fewer calories burned while the body is resting.

All in all, the research suggests that when we’re deprived of sleep, we may consume more calories through the food we eat and burn less calories through out the day. More calories in and less calories out is a recipe for weight gain, an increased risk of obesity and even diabetes.

Of course, more research is still needed. And it’s still a bit premature to conclude that increasing sleep time may assist in weight loss or that sleep can be used as a treatment for obesity. But sleep certainly does seem to play an important factor.

Unhealthy Food More Appealing When Tired.

According to a new study, unhealthy foods like pizza, candy and soda are even more appealing to our brains when we’re tired.

Conducted by Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, the study looked at brain activity in well-rested and then sleep-deprived individuals. When shown unhealthy food options, tired participants experienced increased activity in the brain’s reward centers.

A separate study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley concluded that sleep-deprivation leads to impaired activity in an area in the frontal lobe of the brain. This is the area of the brain that helps control behavior and process complex choices. When experiencing sleep deprivation, this area didn’t respond well – thereby making it easier for tired individuals to choose unhealthy foods.

The results aren’t surprising for two reasons. First, when we’re tired, we let our guard down. We’re not as vigilant in making decisions – and it’s easier to just “go for it.” Second, there’s probably an evolutionary advantage at play. When we’re tired, unhealthy (but calorie-dense) foods like soda and candy can give you a quick burst of energy and momentarily lift fatigue. Back when we lived in caves and fought for our survival, this could have been an evolutionary advantage.

The next time you’re tired and craving something unhealthy, remember this study and know what’s really happening. Grab a handful of unsalted nuts or slice up an apple… and then call it a night. Do your body a real favor and get some rest.

7 Tips to Cut Back on Caffeine.

Addicted to caffeine? Here are 7 tips to cut back.

400 billion is a very big number. It’s also the number of coffees consumed each year by people around the world. In North America alone, it’s estimated that 80% – 90% of adults have caffeine on a regular basis.

Though it’s believed that moderate caffeine consumption may be linked to some health benefits (including lower risk of some diseases, cancers and strokes), too much caffeine isn’t a good thing.

Most experts recommend no more than 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, which works out to between 2 and 4 cups. According to the Mayo Clinic, heavy caffeine consumption may cause:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

With most of us not getting enough sleep – and with sleep being critical for muscle recovery – the symptom of insomnia is of particular concern for many exercise enthusiasts.

To that end, here are seven tips for cutting back on caffeine:

  1. Monitor intake. Using a journal, your phone or a piece of scrap paper, keep track of the amount of coffee, tea and soda that you consume on daily basis. This will help you get a better handle on the situation and give you a starting point.
  2. Take it slow. Gradually reduce your caffeine intake by reducing coffee consumption by 1/2 cup per day. Quitting cold turkey isn’t sustainable – and it can result in painful withdrawal symptoms like headaches.
  3. Replace caffeinated drinks with a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. Or even water. It’s important to replace an unhealthy habit with a healthier one to help fill the void.
  4. Switch to decaf coffee. There are many great and delicious decaf flavors. Alternatively, you can try watering down your caffeinated coffee to reduce your intake.
  5. Cut brew time. You can reduce the caffeine in tea by brewing it for less time. Or, you can pour out some of the tea and replace it with hot water.
  6. Watch for other caffeine sources. Beyond coffee, tea and soda, caffeine can also be found in other products. There’s some (but not much) caffeine in chocolate, and quite a bit in many pharmaceuticals. Two Excedrin tablets, for example, contain 130 milligrams of caffeine. That’s more than a cup of a coffee.
  7. Plan accordingly. As you gradually decrease caffeine consumption, your body may experience withdrawal symptoms. For that reason, it’s best to make cutbacks during lower-stress periods in your life.

Most of all, know that a low-caffeine life is possible. And, it’s great! I don’t consume caffeine, and yet I have tons of energy and jump out of bed in the morning. No caffeine needed. 🙂

If you have any tips to reduce caffeine consumption, please share them in the comments below!

Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality by 65%.

Sweet, sweet dreams...

Do you find yourself tired during the day – or unable to fall asleep at night? Before popping a pill, you may want to try this: Regular exercise.

We’ve always heard anecdotal evidence that regular exercise promotes higher levels of energy during the day and improved sleep at night. We’ve even seen the link between exercise sleep touted in a number of studies. Unfortunately, those studies usually rely on self-report to determine exercise level – and many people tend to overestimate their activity.

A new study,  published in the December issue of Mental Health and Physical Activity, is the first of its kind to combine a nationally representative sample with scientifically measured physical activity levels. 2,600 men and women between the ages of 18 and 85 engaged in 150 minutes of physical activity per week (the national guideline for recommended physical activity).

So, how did the 150 minutes of physical activity impact sleep?

Here are a few of the findings:

  • Feeling overly sleepy during the day decreased 65%
  • Leg cramps while sleeping decreased 68%
  • Difficulty concentrating with tired decreased 45%

With 35 – 40 percent of Americans experiencing sleep issues, a little bit of exercise may go a long way to a better night’s sleep. Beyond decreasing our waistline and promoting overall health, the link between physical activity and improved sleep is undeniable.

Gym Consequences of Not Getting Enough Sleep.

Wakey, wakey. I don't think I'd get too much sleep next to him.

Not getting enough sleep is one of my top 6 reasons why your muscle-building workout isn’t building muscle. But a new study by researchers at Stanford University goes one step further. The researchers found that extending sleep periods can dramatically (relatively speaking) improve the performance of athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.

For athletes participating in roughly two months of sleep extension, 20-yard shuttle times improved from 4.71 seconds to 4.61 seconds, and 40-yard dash times decreased from 4.99 seconds to 4.89 seconds.

While those numbers might not sound significant to the typical treadmill trooper, in a sports world where 1/100ths of second means the difference between between gold and silver, a tenth of a second is like a lifetime.

According to lead researcher Cheri Mah:

Sleep duration may be an important consideration for an athlete’s daily training regimen. Furthermore, sleep extension also may contribute to minimizing the effects of accumulated sleep deprivation and thus could be a beneficial strategy for optimal performance.

Under the surface, it appears that muscle growth occurs during the deep, non-REM stages of sleep. In addition, deep sleep helps rejuvenate the immune, skeletal and nervous systems.

Athletes in the study slept as much as 10-hours – a true stretch for most of us and our busy lifestyles. Nonetheless, Mah believes that all of us can put the results of this study into practice by following these five recommendations:

  1. Make sleep a part of your regular training regimen. It’s just as important as eating protein.
  2. Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition.
  3. Maintain a low “sleep debt” by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to eight hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults)
  4. Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. Minimize weekend fluctuations and the like.
  5. Take brief naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.

How much sleep do you usually get? I average somewhere around 7 hours, though I like to aim for a full 8.