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Sleep and the Effect on Weight

Everyone knows (or should know) that getting a good night’s sleep is important for overall health. A good night’s sleep has been one of the casualties of a modern lifestyle with few Americans getting adequate sleep. What should also be emphasized is that getting a good night sleep is an integral part of weight management.

Increased Weight Gain = Increased Calorie Demand

When the human body is sleep deprived, it demands more calories.

The typical pattern is the craving of high fat and high carb foods in the late afternoon and evening. A frequently touted figure is that consumption increases by 100 calories for every hour of sleep lost. That may not seem like a lot, but 100 calories extra per day is basically a pound a month of increased fat and 10 pounds a year. And that is from 1 hour below optimal and also assumes a normal, restful night sleep which many people don’t get.

The reality is that most obese patients do not sleep well. Sleep apnea is very common and goes mostly undiagnosed. Typically, the periods of not breathing and low oxygen wake people up just enough to prevent truly deep sleep. These arousals go mostly unnoticed but they interfere with restful sleep and drive appetite the next day.

Treating sleep apnea can help with weight loss as sleep is higher quality.

Even people without sleep apnea just struggle to get comfortable and arouse because of chronic pain.

Stimulants as Appetite Suppressants

To drive the point home further, notice how stimulants are appetite suppressants. Most of the time, my patients tell me that Phentermine helps control carb cravings. I suspect that effect is magnified when sleep is not adequate.

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant and has well established appetite effects.

The ADHD medication VyVanse, a stimulant, is now used for binge eating disorder. There is a strong link between feeling tired and appetite.

What can you do about sleep deprivation?

Certain realities can’t be fixed, but as with everything, choices should be made understanding the consequences. Working late nights or overnight are realities for many, but they should realize that it has a negative impact on their health and weight. Medical disorders such as sleep apnea need to be treated.

Weight loss nearly always improves sleep quality.

6 Tips to Focus on Better Sleep Hygiene.

The following are great tips to help you improve your sleep.

#1 – Create a Calm Bedroom.

Bedrooms should be used for bedroom activities only and kept cool, quiet and dark.

#2 – Skip the Caffeine & Alcohol.

Excess caffeine and alcohol should be avoided – particularly late at night.

#3 – Establish Healthy Sleep Patterns.

You should go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning. Staying up late on weekends or sleeping in just interferes with natural cycles.

#4 – Minimize Electronic Use.

Electronics should be minimized at the end of the day. On your cellphone/tablet/laptop, brightness should be turned down at night and blue light filters should be turned on. Blue light mimics the effect of sunlight on our brains and tells us to be awake.

Most devices made in the last few years have night modes which turn on blue light filters and turn down the brightness late in the evening. It is just a matter of turning them on. Blue light filter glasses have become popular to prevent eye strain (maybe helpful) and may help with sleep quality.

#5 – Consider Melatonin as a Natural Sleep Aid.

Melatonin should be considered as a night time sleep aid. Melatonin is a natural compound that regulates our sleep cycle. Production by our body increases with darkness and is suppressed by light. All light probably suppresses melatonin production, but blue light is particularly good at reducing production. Melatonin production by the body is also noted to decrease with age.

#6 – Get More Active!

Lastly, exercise and physical activity should be increased. Every parent knows how physical activity makes for good sleep. That reality doesn’t change as you get older. Exercising right before bedtime isn’t ideal but is probably better than no exercise at all.

Now, go get some rest!

About David Pilati, MD

Dr. David Pilati specializes in both general and bariatric surgery and joined WakeMed in 2018 when Bariatric Specialists of NC joined the WakeMed family. Dr. Pilati routinely performs advanced laparoscopic procedures for the abdomen and colon, gallbladder surgery, hernia repairs, as well as adolescent general surgery.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Pilati today.