Sleep When You’re Dead?

As Trainers, we often advise clients on exercise and nutrition. I particularly concentrate on sound nutrition and build from there. If you eat garbage, how can you expect to be anything else? However, one rather large and often overlooked aspect of health is our sleep and sleep quality. Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep can curtail your best efforts for health despite good nutrition and exercise. The processes that take place and the hormonal symphony at play while we sleep is dramatic. If everything is functioning normally, how we behave and our hormonal activity is controlled, to a large degree by the light and dark.  The 24 hour sleep-wake cycle is known as the circadian rhythm (Kresser, 2013). When you are exposed to light, your body responds. Light stimulates the body to release cortisol, which could be known as a stress hormone. This gets us ready for the challenges the day may present. This peaks and then drops as the day goes on. When it drops, the release of melatonin is stimulated, as well as other growth and repair hormones. Sleep should then follow.


Chek sleep cycle

This allows physical repair to take place (generally between 10pm and 2am) (Chek, 2004). Melatonin is important and strengthens the immune system, amongst other functions (Croxton, 2011).

One of the problems we face is that we are exposed to high levels of artificial light from our lights, LCD TV, phones, computers etc. The exposure to this light (together with other stressors) ensures a prolonged release of stress hormones, delaying melatonin release. To say this can cause problems is an understatement.

“The consequences of chronic sleep deprivation are nothing short of catastrophic” (Kresser, 2013).

Image taken from: Chek, 2004, pp. 202-203

How does this affect your health?

One of the main problems is the chronically high cortisol levels, caused by lack of sleep and other forms of stress. The result being high blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, causing you to store fat. Even losing out on one night of good sleep causes insulin resistance. Robb Wolf, in his book The Paleo Solution claims it can make you as insulin resistant as a type II diabetic! (Wolf, 2010).

The exposure to light late at night can promote late night snacking (Kresser, 2013).

Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase calorie intake, particularly during the late night hours (Spaeth et al, 2013).

So lack of sleep can make you fat, that’s not all either. The effect on the immune system can make you more susceptible to infection, inflammation and even cancer! (Kresser, 2013).

So avoid exposure to artificial light where possible at night.

Sleep in darkness, don’t have any kind of light on, such as an alarm clock and most importantly, get to bed!

Sleep when you’re Dead? It’ll happen sooner if you don’t sleep now!

References and Further Reading:

Chek, P. 2004 How to Eat Move and Be Healthy! Chek Institute

Croxton, S 2011 The Dark Side of Fat Loss ebook

Kresser, C. 2013 Your Personal Paleo Diet. Piatkus

Spaeth, A.M., Dinges, D.F. and Goel, N. 2013 Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults. Sleep, Vol. 36, No. 7, pp. 981-990

Wiley, T.S. 2000 Lights Out Sleep, Sugar and Survival. Pocket Books

Wolf, R (2010) The Paleo Solution

2 Comments on Sleep When You’re Dead?

  1. Yes! Sleep is so important! Thanks for providing great resources and references. How interesting that exposure to light late at night can cause late night snacking.

  2. I am a firm believer in sleep. I am going to be sending this article to my friends. thanks

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