Getting eight hours of shut-eye sounds laughable especially for parents with a newborn in the house. That's why it didn't come as a surprise when you told us the gift you want for Valentine’s Day is sleep! Then you have to deal with thoughts like: “I’m the mom, I should be the one caring for the baby. I should breastfeed instead of letting my husband feed the baby with pumped milk.” The mommy guilt is a great motivator to pull yourself out of bed.
In this context, the idea of going to the gym sounds even more ludicrous, right? And the news coming from experts is between the gym and sleep, it is okay to choose the latter, which has a huge impact on your overall health.
“Sleep provides our bodies with the fuel we need for the day,” says Rachel Gorton, a sleep specialist, in an interview with Mother.ly.“If we continue to pull from our energy bank but don’t replenish it properly, we will end up operating in a deficit, which leads to long-lasting health problems.”
“The level of leptin (an appetite stimulating hormone) falls in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite,” says Richard Simon, M.D., a sleep specialist from Washington, in an article for the National Sleep Foundation. “Poor sleep and deprivation may increase appetite. Because the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep, and hunger are similar; we sometimes confuse them. We tend to eat when we’re actually sleepy because we think fatigue is a sign of hunger."
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A set of studies published in 2016 found that a lack of sleep caused people to consume more calories. Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the research revealed that of the 172 participants who were sleep-deprived consumed an average of 385 extra kilocalories per day, plus they proportionately ate higher fat and lower protein intakes.
“The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure. This study adds accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation could contribute to the imbalance,” explains Dr. Gerda Pot, senior author of the study.
Lack of sleep also increases the production of stress hormone. “When we’re sleep deprived, our body gets stressed out, and the level of stress hormone cortisol shoots up that leads to weight gain,” says Cheshire Que, a Philippine-US registered dietitian-nutritionist.
Because cortisol also helps control blood sugar levels and regulate metabolism, increased levels may result into “fat accumulation around the waist and increase the ability of fat cells to store fat,” according to Reuters.
Of course, the ideal formula is along with sleep, we get that much-needed exercise (and sometimes that can be done in one minute a day!), and we eat a balanced diet. But if you can't achieve that formula yet, then at least give yourself the gift of a bedtime routine so you get quality sleep. It’s good for you.