If you’re not getting enough sleep for whatever reason, be it life-style or physical or psychological causes, you’re running up a credit card-style debt of hours of sleep missed. The funny thing about this debt is that it shows up not in the mailbox, but in daytime fatigue, lack of motivating energy, inability to focus, and extra pounds on the waistline, to name a few consequences of running up a lack-of-sleep tab on your body.
Problems associated with sleep deprivation start with lack of energy — being constantly tired in the daytime — and segue from there into problems focusing and being productive. You’ll find yourself at work reaching for coffee or snacks, usually carbohydrate-laden things like candy, donuts and chips that rush energy into your system, and if this pattern continues, you’ll see the pounds accumulate.
When your weight goes up, so usually do your sleep problems, starting with snoring that can not only interrupt your rest at night but your bed partner’s as well. Being overweight is also one of the leading causes of snoring and sleep problems in general.
“When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods,” explains Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.
Dr. Breus adds, however, that if you’re not getting your rightful number of sleep hours a night, generally about eight, that could be adding to your weight problems, but if you can increase your sleeping hours to a normal level, you should be able to start shedding some extra pounds.
Though sleeping more should not be confused with a dietary strategy to lose weight, it is indeed one element that is often overlooked. Lack of sleep causes us to reach for foods that provide quick energy, and those foods tend to be items that pack carbs and calories onto our frames, especially over time.
The biggest issue here, of course, is to uncover and combat the cause of your sleeping problems. If it’s life-style, you have to make a conscious effort to adopt good sleep hygiene (which we’ve explained in other articles and will revisit again soon). For about 30 or 40 percent of us, however, there are probably physical reasons for snoring and sleep deprivation, and for that we need to seek help from sleep professionals, such as those found at The Snoring Center.
Don’t shortchange your days and your enjoyment of life in general. Get a sleep evaluation and find the treatment that gets you back on track for a solid, restful eight hours of sleep a night, every night.