Are your sleep habits making you fat, nasty and dumb?

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    Nov 27, 2007 7:45 PM GMT

    Are your sleep habits making you fat, nasty and dumb?
    November 26, 2007 | Jonathan Fields

    Feeling a little stressed, short-tempered or on edge? Putting on a few pounds around the middle? Having trouble maintaining your edge at work?

    Here’s something that’s going to shock you a bit. For some of you, it’s even going to be a bit of good news. Your stress-inducing job, French-cruller breakfast-smoothies and increasingly sedentary lifestyle might not be entirely to blame.

    In fact, a good chunk of your weight gain, moodiness and brain-fog may be due to your sleep habits.

    For more than 60-million Americans, there is a relentlessly powerful evil force at work in their lives. Something that, altered just a bit, could help you drop weight, improve your mood, be healthier, live-longer and excel at work…and there’s be nothing to buy. Only something to do.

    Lack of sleep and your weight

    Over the last few decades, people all over the developed world have been getting fatter. People have pointed fingers at a variety of causes, from longer work-weeks to stress to fast-food and inactivity. But, interestinly enough, there may be another far more pervasive contributor. Sleep.

    During the same time that rates of overwieght and obesity have more than doubled in the U.S., the average amount of daily sleep for Americans has decreased significantly. And, while lack of sleep has often been viewed as the by-product of a high-stress inactive, unhappy, sedentary lifestyle, that may be a bit of the tail wagging the dog.

    Lack of sleep conspires to make you heavier in a number of distinct ways:

    * Lack of sleep makes you ravenous: According to a December 2004 University of Chicago study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, partial sleep deprivation alters your level of hunger hormones, making you not only hungrier all day, but seriously jonesing for calorie-dense, high-carbohydrate fare.

    * Lack of sleep makes it harder to exercise: When you wake up tired, it is increasingly more difficult to find the motivation and energy to exercise, which, as you progress through life, is mission critical in your ability to not only lose weight, but maintain weight loss. This sets up a vicious cycle of lack of energy that leads to lack of exercise that fosters a poorer sleep that leads to lack of energy. At some point, you need to just dive in and make an exercise intervention.

    * Lack of sleep dramatically increases your risk of obesity: Research by the University of Warwick linked sleep deprivation with an near doubling in the chance of becoming obese. More recently, a 2007 University of Michigan study revealed a strong correlation between childhood obesity and lack of adequate sleep (9-hours). Every additional hour of sleep in 6th-grade decreased a child’s likely of being overweight by 20%, while every additional hour of sleep in 3rd-grade decreased the risk of being overweight in 6th-grade by a whopping 40%. A University of Texas at Houston study similarly showed the odds of obesity in adolescents increased 80-percent for each hour of lost sleep. And, things don’t get better any as we get older, more stressed, less active and sleep even less.

    So, how much sleep does it take to go from buff to puff? As we’ve seen, not a lot. And, the effects can be cumulative, so if you don’t sleep well for a week, then sleep late one Saturday to try to make up for it, you’re still going to be at a net loss. So, it seems pretty clear that sleep plays a role in weight. That would be enough to motivate many people to work on their sleep habits. But, wait, there’s more!

    Lack of sleep and your brain.

    Adding insult to injury, it seems lack of sleep not only makes you fat, it may also may you dumb…or at least temporarily impaired! In fact, a growing body of research reveals a serious drop in cognitive function with even small amounts of sleeplessness.

    * Lack of sleep make you less discerning: A 2007 study presented at the21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies revealed a serious drop in the ability of airport screeners to detect high-risk items. And, that problem worsened at the participated slept less.

    * Lack of sleep decreases cognitive function & memory: Much of what we learn during the day is processed and integrated while we sleep. So, when we disprupt our sleep, we mess with not only our ability to form memories, but to understand and utlize new information. This leads to poorer performance both at work and in school. Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University recently studied the effects of a slightly shortened sleep period in 4th and 6th graders. After three days getting just 30-minutes less sleep, the average 6th grader had the cognitive function of a 4th-grader. A second study from the University of Minnestoa revealed the Average A-student got 36-more minutes of sleep than th
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    Dec 22, 2007 10:10 AM GMT
    So how much sleep do we need?? I heard 7 hrs. but I never know...