Note From Dr.CSeptember 29, 2016
Note From Dr.CSeptember 29, 2016
I recently had someone tell me they’re fine sleeping only 4-5 hours a night but are still struggling with their weight. How does sleep control weight and how much sleep do you need to lose weight?
Our sleep is critical for repairing and rejuvenating our bodies in many ways. A friend of mine, Dan Amen, is a doctor who’s done about 80,000 brain scans on people. He’s looked at three-dimensional views of people’s brains and how the blood flows within them. He has lined up questions regarding all kinds of habits that affect the brain, like “How much do you sleep?” “What medicines are you on?” “Did you play pro football?”
There are numerous habits affecting how your brain looks and how well it’s working.
There is something pretty wild that happens whenever you dip below seven hours of sleep. There is visible damage in certain parts of the brain that control your body composition (your metabolism).
Many people think they function on five hours of sleep. Here is the question: Although they may be familiar with functioning on this amount of sleep, are they really thriving on it?
You might hear stories about people like Isaac Asimov. He was an author whose work I loved growing up. He could sleep 90 minutes a day and literally spend 17-20 hours a day on his typewriter. He loved that and did reasonably well with it. He is not the norm.
Ironically if you’re sleep deprived, your brain becomes less able to judge your performance. Think about how some people kid themselves and think several drinks make them dance better. Sleep is just like that.
Take the Challenge
The amount of people who can do well with less than seven hours of sleep a night is slim to none. If you are convinced you’re functioning well with less, give yourself a challenge: For three weeks, make sure you get 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
When all other factors are equal, the sleep you get before midnight is more helpful than the sleep you get after midnight. If you have a choice of going to bed early or sleeping in, going to bed early will help you more.
If you have a chronic sleep deficit from being behind night after night, it may take at least this much to get caught up. Studies have shown that a sleep deficit may be causing your body to grow 7 pounds or more of visceral fat.
Observe how you’re functioning. Watch your mood throughout the day. See how you’re feeling about others and your interaction with them. It may seem others have changed for the better, but actually, you’re perceiving them more positively from having more sleep. If you’ve been craving certain foods and having difficulty stopping after one serving, see how that changes, too.
When you’re behind on sleep, your brain goes into stress mode and prepares for survival by raising your appetite and slowing your metabolism for a 1-2 punch of weight gain.
Sleeping at least eight hours per night is a tool you can use to make a big difference in your life. By my last count, over 240 studies tied unexplained body weight to lack of sleep.
In my book, THE ADRENAL RESET DIET, I wrote how the rate in obesity skyrocketed worldwide around 1990. A few weeks ago, a reporter told me an amazing insight I wish I could’ve included in the book: Right around 1990, the rate of people working later shifts (like 4-11 pm or 11 pm-7 am) increased by 30-40%! This is probably one more variable behind all of our weight gain.
Again, here’s the challenge: give yourself three weeks of 8-9 hours of good sleep at night, and see how the world around you magically changes.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.