Sleep debt and your metabolism
“Sleep debt is like credit card debt,” If you keep accumulating credit card debt, you will pay high-interest rates or your account will be shut down until you pay it all off”
Why is it important? If you accumulate too much sleep debt, your body will crash. 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.
Exactly how the lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight has a lot to do with our nightly hormones.
The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.
More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain, especially around the midriff. You are eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived.
Your body has a circadian cycle (body clock) which functions as a 24-hour clock, regulating processes such as body temperature and heart rate. An important part of that circadian system is the production of Melatonin. Melatonin[i] it’s your body ‘Superhero at night’ a naturally occurring hormone and a powerful antioxidant [ii] your body uses internally to promote the process of falling asleep.
Your body (particularly your adrenal system) does a majority of its recharging between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well. Normally, the rise and fall of the sun affect how the body’s natural cycles are activated.
When light stimulates the eyes, a signal is sent to the brain that causes the brain, in turn, to activate the hormonal system and release cortisol[iii], the stress hormone. This then prepares the body for movement and other daily activities. As the sun continues to rise cortisol levels also will continue to rise, peaking around 9 am. Cortisol levels stay high until around 12, begin to drop in the afternoon, and continue to do so till after the sun goes down. As cortisol levels drop, melatonin[iv] and growth – repair hormone levels begin to rise. From sunset onwards, bodies are designed to wind down, and by 10 pm sleep generally begins and the body starts its physical repair cycle. This is a very important phase, especially for those that have been doing any kind of physical exercise during the day, as the physical repair cycle starts around 10 – 2 am. Muscles need this time for repair and growth. In addition, the time from 2 – 6 am is important for brain function, neurological repair, and psychological repair.
Summary and Top Tip
You may enable your circadian system to work smoothly by going to bed at roughly the same time every night and wake up at the same times each day. As an adult aim to sleep around 7 – 8 hours at night. This will enable your body to release optimal hormonal levels at nights to energize you throughout the day. Happy hormones and speedy metabolism will lead to punching new holes into your belt to hold those baggy trousers up. Not a bad problem to face!
What more, getting into a good sleep habit makes it easier to fall asleep and spring out of bed when the alarm goes off!