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Deprive your body of its sleep requirements and you could pay the price.

Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night for their bodies to function efficiently during the day.  Unfortunately, many adults don't get enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. 

Recent research shows that the Internet, email, late night TV and other distractions pay a big part in our sleep-deprived society.  And the side effects of a lack of proper sleep include heightened risk for a variety of major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

With obesity already at an all time high- here is how sleep deprivation creates more of a weight problem:

People who sleep less than six hours a night may experience an increase in their body mass index (height-to-weight ratio) more than those who slept seven to eight hours.
Women who sleep five hours a day, or less, typically gain more weight than those who slept seven hours a day, according to a 16-year study.
Finally, people who sleep less than eight hours a day had larger increases in body fat than those who slept more.
The reason for this is that sleep affects eating because our bodies’ major activities, including temperature regulation, hormone secretion, and brain chemistry production, run on a 24-hour cycle. When our bodies aren’t in a regular sleep pattern (think jet lag), hormones that regulate whether we feel full or hungry get out of whack, so all of our normal cues for eating are altered.  When you are tired or fatigued you may make the following food choices:

  • Have a snack right before you go to bed to relax.
  • Have a quick pick-me-up snack during the day, when you’re feeling sleepy or fatigued.
  • Not sticking with a healthy eating plan. If you’re tired and sleep deprived, you may tend to make poor food choices, and rely on higher calorie comfort food.

The obvious solution is to sleep 8 hours each night- but this is easier said than done.  Here are some great tips to help address this challenge:

  • Try to set a regular schedule. Eat regularly — at least three to four times each day. Aim for seven hours of sleep. Create some structure in your life. And make sleep a priority.
  • Don’t use food to “wake you up.” Take a power nap between 15 and 20 minutes instead. Always think before you eat and make healthy choices. 
  • Address your stress. Separate mental fatigue (stress) from physical fatigue. Try to reduce your stress levels by taking a 20-minute walk, and increasing your activity of daily living.
  • See your doctor to rule out any medical illnesses contributing to lack of sleep and weight gain.

And always make your bedroom a calm environment conducive to sleep.  Try to avoid doing activities in the bedroom that might disrupt sleep, such as watching TV or doing work.

For more info on sleep deprivation, check out these articles: