Sleep and Healthy Choices

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Food consumption can lead to dopamine production within the body which causes our reward and pleasure centers in the brain to turn on. Some people eat in order to experience this rush of dopamine instead of for hunger but, when this behavior is repeated over time, the process of dopamine production can actually override feelings of hunger and of being full (Singh, 2014). When we lack sleep we are more likely to engage in this behavior, which can ultimately cause a negative addiction to food consumption for pleasure as well as weight gain.  

What Lacking Sleep Means for Our Health

No matter why you stay up, the effects are the same. Poor sleep health, or lacking sleep, can have an increase in energy expenditure by around 5% - but it also increases energy intake. This energy intake is food consumption and usually takes place after dinner. According to Markwald and her colleagues, this energy intake is often a type of physiological adaptation to provide the extra energy we need to stay up longer. However, this intake often surpasses that what is necessary (Markland et al., 2013).

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also uncovered that poor sleep health can cause people to consume more snacks than meals. These snacks, very high in carbohydrates, were consumed in high amounts between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. (Nedeltcheva et al., 2008).

But sleep doesn’t just affect our weight. Poor sleep health has been proven to be a risk factor for diabetes and insulin resistance (Spiegel, 2008; Spiegel et al., 2005). Previous experiments have also shown that lacking sleep has negative effects on mood as well as motor and cognitive performance.

How Many Hours is Considered “Healthy”

Depending on your age, the exact time frame which is considered good sleep health varies. Adults (18-64) need a minimum of 6 hours to a maximum of 11 hours of sleep each night. However, the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Create a Healthy and Restful Sleep Schedule

Getting back to a restful sleep schedule can be difficult, but there are a few sleeping tips that make the process a bit easier.

  • Bedroom Rules

Your bedroom should be dark and as quiet as possible when you are ready for bed. During the day, try to avoid sitting or laying in your bed when not sleeping. If your bed stays “off limits” during your awake hours, getting in bed at the end of the day will signalize to your body that it is time to sleep.

  • No Electronics Before Bed

Electronic devices emit blue light, which is much stronger in convincing your body to stay awake compared to other light sources. In the best case scenario, you should try to limit electronic use between 90 and 120 minutes before bedtime. If this isn’t possible, consider purchasing special glasses that block blue light or find an app to install on your smartphone that helps limit the amount of blue light being produced.   

  • Daily Light Exposure

Light exposure, or going outside, can actually help you regulate your sleep (Campbell, Dawson & Anderson, 1993). Being exposed to light helps enforce your body’s own clock, called the circadian rhythm. In addition to falling asleep faster, you will experience higher quality sleep.

  • Exercise!

In addition to helping you maintain your ideal weight, exercising will ensure that you are ready to sleep at the end of a long day. Consider exercising outside to take advantage of two sleeping tips at once!  

  • Limit Caffeine to the Morning

Caffeine can be beneficial when consumed at the right times and in the right amount. However, consuming caffeine 6 hours or less before bedtime and negatively affect your sleep (Drake et al., 2013)! After 4 p.m. stick to decaffeinated coffee or tea if you are craving a warm drink.

  • Make a Habit

Although it may seem difficult, try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. If it helps, have a relaxing night time ritual like a warm bath, meditation, or listening to calming music.

Sleep clearly affects more things than just feeling rested. Having positive sleep health helps to not only to improve your mood, physical and mental health, but also protects you from diseases and weight gain! Start taking steps today, to determine which strategies help you get the most rest on a daily basis.

By The Nido Lifestyle Team

Works Cited

Campbell, S. S., Dawson, D., & Anderson, M. W. (1993). Alleviation of Sleep Maintenance Insomnia with Timed Exposure to Bright Light. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,41(8), 829-836. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.1993.tb06179.x

Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170

Ferrara, M., & Gennaro, L. D. (2001). How much sleep do we need? Sleep Medicine Reviews,5(2), 155-179. doi:10.1053/smrv.2000.0138

Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, K. P. (2013). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,110(14), 5695-5700. doi:10.1073/pnas.1216951110

Nedeltcheva, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Kasza, K., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. D. (2008). Sleep curtailment is accompanied by increased intake of calories from snacks. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,89(1), 126-133. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26574

Singh, M. (2014). Mood, food, and obesity. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 925.

Spiegel, K., Knutson, K., Leproult, R., Tasali, E., & Cauter, E. V. (2005). Sleep loss: A novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology,99(5), 2008-2019. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00660.2005

Spiegel, K. (2008). Sleep loss as a risk factor for obesity and diabetes. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity,3(S2), 27-28. doi:10.1080/17477160802404681

Jennie Luna