Controlling your weight

There are some once weekly calls that some people wish not to get, but are guaranteed to occur. It could that call for child money, the call that tells you that the meeting money “guine” be late, or the one from your editor, asking “Where de article?”

Well sir, here is my article, on time to boot.

Whilst reading I came across a riveting headline — This nightly activity can have a profound influence on how much you weigh. Well, I said to myself, at least this headline will make people want to read my article, as it is becoming more and more difficult to compete with the soap opera that is ensuing as the Alexandra Enquiry.

A new study of 1,800 pairs of twins found that even if you are genetically predisposed to being overweight, there is one easy thing you can do to put yourself in control of how much weight you gain.

As reported by CNN, researchers found that genes accounted for 70 per cent of the differences in body mass index in those who slept less than seven hours per night. Environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, accounted for just four per cent of the differences. But in twins who slept nine or more hours per night, environmental factors shot up to 51 per cent, and genetic influences dipped to 32 per cent. So, sleep deprivation appears to have a significant influence over your genetic expression.

According to CNN Health:

“Getting adequate sleep, in other words, appears to dampen genetic risk and allow the influence of diet, exercise, and other controllable lifestyle factors to ‘surface’, the researchers say.”

Studies are showing that persons who get less than seven hours of sleep daily, tend to have a higher Body Mass Index than persons who get more sleep. It seems there are many biological influences that link sleep deprivation and weight gain.

Alterations to your metabolism account for some of this effect, because when you are sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that says “belly full”) falls, while ghrelin (which signals “belly empty”) rises. In one 2010 study, researchers found that people who slept only four hours for two consecutive nights experienced:

* 18 per cent reduction in leptin

* 28 per cent increase in ghrelin

This combination leads to an increase in appetite. Additionally, sleep deprivation tends to lead to food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods. Researchers have suggested that these sugar cravings stem from the fact that your brain is fuelled by glucose; therefore, when lack of sleep occurs, your brain starts searching for carbohydrates to keep going. If you are chronically sleep deprived, consistently giving in to these sugar cravings will virtually guarantee that you will gain weight.

Sleeping less than six hours per night can also radically decrease the sensitivity of your insulin receptors, which will raise your insulin levels.

This too is a surefire way to gain weight as the insulin will seriously impair your body’s ability to burn and digest fat. It also increases your risk of diabetes. In short, sleep deprivation puts your body in a pre-diabetic state, which can lead to increased weight and decreased health.

Biological stress is another mechanism that can help explain the link between poor sleeping habits and increased risk of weight gain. According again to CNN:

“Sleep deprivation puts stress on your body, and that stress could help explain the relationship between sleep and gene expression seen in the study, says Carl Boethel, M.D., director of the Sleep Institute at Scott & White Healthcare, i”‘When you are constantly depriving yourself of sleep, you are keeping yourself in a state of stress, and the genes that encode for that stressful environment start saying, ‘I need to hold on to calories’,” Boethel says.”

When your body is under stress, it releases hormones that increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Your muscles get tense, your digestive processes stop, and certain brain centres are triggered, which alter your brain chemistry.

For example, it tends to raise your levels of corticostol, the stress hormone associated with getting vex. Left unchecked, this stress response can eventually lead to a variety of health problems including:

* Headaches

* Indigestion

* Increased anxiety

* Depression

* High blood pressure

Chronic lack of sleep has a cumulative effect, so you cannot skimp on sleep on weekdays and then try to “catch up” over the weekend. In order to benefit your health, you need to be consistent in your sleeping habits.

As a general rule, adults need between six and eight hours of sleep every night. However, there are plenty of exceptions. Also, as that same study on twins suggests, you may need upwards of nine hours a night in order for it to outweigh certain genetic predispositions, by allowing your body to reap maximum benefits from a healthy diet and exercise regimen. The amount of sleep you need can also drastically change depending on your circumstances, such as illness or going through an emotionally stressful time.

Pregnant women also typically need more sleep than usual during the first trimester. My advice is to pay close heed to your body, mind and emotional state. For example, if you consistently feel tired upon waking, you probably need to sleep longer. Frequent yawning throughout the day is another dead giveaway that you need more shut-eye.

There are many factors that can influence your sleep, but one that many fail to consider is the use of light-emitting technology in your bedroom, such as a TV, iPad, and computer. These emit the type of light that will suppress melatonin production, which in turn will hamper your ability to fall asleep. Ideally, you should turn all such light-emitting gadgets off at least an hour prior to bed time.

Next, making some adjustments to your sleeping area can also go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep:

1. Cover your windows with blackout shades or drapes to ensure complete darkness. Even the tiniest bit of light in the room can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin, thereby disrupting your sleep cycle. So close your bedroom door, get rid of night-lights, and refrain from turning on any light during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom (this may be awkward).

2. Understand that the bedroom is the room to sleep in; it should not be your command centre. Do all other stuff like eating, surfing the net, and office work in other rooms. If you continue to do all of these activities in your bedroom, your brain does not see that place as somewhere to sleep, but somewhere to work, and all sleep mechanisms will be turned off or delayed.

3. Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your head. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet.

4. Try not to drink cola drinks after 7 p.m. or take certain decongestant medicines after 7 p.m.

Oh and in case the editor misses it, the night activity that has a profound effect on how much you weigh is — the time you go to sleep, sir!

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