Monday, 10 September 2012

Should You Risk Losing Your Beauty Sleep & Flat Belly?

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Are you feeling the pressures of work?  Are there pressing deadlines to meet; exams to study for?  Are you burning the candle at both ends?  You can survive on a few hours of sleep surely, right?

Choose to give up your beauty sleep and you are probably more likely to throw out your healthy eating habits too, reports a study in Nutrition in 2012.  Short sleep duration was associated with poor diet quality in 410 medical students in Iran.  Unfortunately, females who slept for less than 6 hours per night were significantly more likely to be overweight and obese.  They were more likely to carry fat around their middle.  Do You Know Your Waist To Hip Ratio?  Their diets tended to be higher in calories, low in fibre, fruit, whole grains and beans.

These findings are duplicated in other studies such as ‘The Swan Sleep Study’ in Obesity 2012.  Interestingly this study reported that for each hour of less sleep this equated to an increase in Body Mass Index by one point.  Remember that the cut-off for normal healthy range is less than 25 kg/m2.  An increase by one point would therefore push you from the normal to the overweight category if you hold a BMI of 25.

This is also true for children it appears.  A study of Australian children over 4 years showed that children from the lower socio-economic backgrounds and low sleep duration were more likely to increase their risk of obesity, as reported in Paediatric Obesity this year.

It is important to appreciate that lack of sleep may not necessarily cause weight gain; simply that it is merely associated with higher risk of being overweight or obese.  Could it be that whilst you burn the midnight oil finishing off that incredibly important piece of work yet again, you are also reaching for bags of crisps or other high fat snacks?  Are you so tired from lack of sleep that the next day, you pounce on endless mugs of coffees with cream and sugar, have little time for grocery shopping and hence spend little or no time preparing a healthy menu for the day and week?

Is your starring role at work, hours of sweat over documents, sleepless nights and poor food choices worth it, once at the end of your journey, you can barely squeeze into that gorgeous black dress to celebrate?  It’s a tough world out there and you may not think twice about trading in sleep for an extra hour of work, but make this a regular routine and you really may run the risk of weight gain.  The International Journal of Obesity, in 2008 reported that you may be up to 3.8 times more likely to be obese for men and 2.3 times more likely at risk for women if you sleep less than 5 hours per night.

What’s the solution?  Aim for 7 to 8 hours of beauty sleep each night.  If that sounds impossible, try to get to bed at least a half hour early each night.  If that fails, leave the crisps, chocolate and biscuits in the trolley at the supermarket and replace with a spectacular fruit bowl that’s within easy reach. 

You may also find that on the nights that you do get time to cook, make extra so that you have extras for the next evening, saving on cooking time.  Certain microwavable meals may be ‘okay’ every now and then, just make sure that you screen your labels (see Be Shopping Savvy: Nutrition Labelling Decoded).

When you do finally hit the sack, don’t forget to read a book for a few minutes or listen to soothing music to create a moment of calm and tranquility so that sleep envelopes you the minute your sleepy head touches the pillow.

How much sleep do you get each night?  I need at least 8 hours to function fully but 7 hours is pretty good too!

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