How Keeping Your Brain Rested Keeps You Thin (Reblogged from

(Apologies about the way it didn’t make paragraphs…  a highly interesting article though!)

That we are not much sicker and much madder than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep. Current research indicates that Mr. Huxley’s quote should read, “That we are not much sicker and much madder and much fatter than we are is due exclusively to that most blessed and blessing of all natural graces, sleep”. Only the extremely ignorant or extremely sleep deprived would doubt the importance of sleep to our physical and psychological well beings. The lack of sleep increases mistakes, decreases emotional regulation, and over time, compromises our health. As if that isn’t enough, studies are now showing that the lack of sleep can also expand our waistline. This weight gain linked to insufficient sleep hits us with a double punch: physical and cognitive-behavioral. Findings presented at the 2006 American Thoracic Society International Conference quantified the relationship between weight gain over time and average nightly hours of sleep. The studies were longitudinal, studying association between weight gain and amount of sleep over a 16 year period. The results showed that women who slept five hours a night had a 32% higher likelihood of experiencing major weight gain (33 pound increase) than women who were sleeping seven hours a night. Additionally, the 5 hour sleepers were 15% more likely to fall into obese categories than the 7 hour sleepers. There are some logical connections that would come as no surprise relating to energy level and weight gain. Obviously, when we are tired, we take necessary shortcuts in order to eliminate work. We may choose to eat prepared foods, or worse, fast foods, in an attempt to cut down on our workload. When we are tired, we may decide to forego that exercise routine, or even put off burning the daily calories by mowing the lawn or doing some housework. These are obvious behaviors relating to calories expenditure that may fall by the wayside when we are tired. But the link between sleep and weight gain goes deeper than that… In fact, it goes deep into the brain, down to a hormonal level. Dr. Michael Breus, PhD has studied the effects of sleep on two specific hormones critical in weight loss. As described by Endocrinologists MD Klok , S. Jakobsdottir, Madeleine Drent : “Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been recognized to have a major influence on energy balance. Leptin is a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance, suppressing food intake and thereby inducing weight loss. Ghrelin on the other hand is a fast-acting hormone, seemingly playing a role in meal initiation.” Breus explains that leptin is the hormone that signals when we feel satisfied, while ghrelin is the hormone that tells us when it is time to try to fuel up. When we undergo a loss of sleep our ghrelin increases and our leptin decreases. In essence, our brains start to try to compensate for a loss of sleep by infusing our bodies with more energy through food. Because our leptin is depleted, we do not have responsive hormonal signals that tell us we’ve had enough. Doctors in a Chicago study manipulated the sleep patterns of 12 men in order to examine the effects on hormone levels and eating behaviors. They found that when sleep deprived, the men’s ghrelin levels increased while leptin levels decreased and the men ate more. The study also showed that the choices the subjects made for their food intake were altered when their hormone levels changed. When sleep deprived, foods offering quick glucose spikes from processed sugars (candy) and carbohydrates (cookies) were chosen over nutritious alternatives. So there is a significant connection between sleep and physical/hormonal brain functioning that can make us fat. When these hormones are altered from sleep deprivation, our hunger centers are unable to function in a way that is conducive to staying trim. But the story is more in depth than that. Cognitive behavioral aspects of weight gain are also affected by sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can be harmful to the higher level cognitive functioning that keeps us focused on goals and orienting our behavior accordingly. When we are sleep deprived, our metabolism slows and our ability to process and use glucose, a key component in higher order thinking and decision making processes, becomes compromised. This creates what can become a cycle of bad decision making when it comes to maintaining healthy lifestyle choices, including diet. Roy Baumeister has theorized that we have limited “psychic” resources within higher order cognitive structures. Self-regulation, decision making, and the ability to persist during difficult tasks (willpower) are areas which can suffer from “mental fatigue”. While mental fatigue and sleep deprivation are not synonymous, a lack of sleep affects metabolism and the ability to process needed nutrients in order to stabilize and maximize the physical interactions in the brain. Sleep deprivation contributes to faster mental fatigue. Kathleen Vohs, expert on self-regulation reports: Findings from a controlled experiment of sleep deprivation and risky choices (using gambles) suggested that sleep deprived people do not self-manage well (Roehrs, Greenwald, & Roth, 2004). Sleep-deprived participants won less money than alert participants because they failed to adjust their bets according to their current capacities. A recent review (Harrison & Horne, 2000) concluded that sleep deprivation impairs higher-order decision making. In particular, the decision making processes that are harmed by sleep deprivation mirror those harmed by self-regulatory resource depletion (Baumeister, Vohs, & Tice, 2007). People who are sleep deprived perseverate on one behavioral pattern when a shift in approaches is necessary, make risky decisions, and exhibit lackluster responses instead of innovation. Hence, the consequences of sleep deprivation and self-regulatory resource depletion effects seem to be consistent, suggesting some link between the two. Clearly, if sleep deprivation compromises our ability to choose wisely, and we are going for the “quick sugar high”, and our ghrelin is saying eat! eat! eat! and our leptin is snoozing, we are in trouble. The odds are stacked against us and we are going to reach for that cupcake, snarf it down, and Heaven forbid, unless our leptin miraculously comes to our rescue, we might just reach for another! So as you open up the bag of chips while considering whether to watch that extra hour of TV tonight, remember, for us, it is not so much “To sleep, perchance to dream”, as it is “To sleep, perchance to squeeze into that adorable outfit that’s been sitting in our closet for the past year”! Image source: Lululemon Athelica Tagged rest, sleep, weight loss


4 thoughts on “How Keeping Your Brain Rested Keeps You Thin (Reblogged from

    • Yes I did… I meant the post but it doesn’t exactly add to the blog. Re that Oscar – Reeva shooting case. I just find it ironic that someone who can shoot at someone with an intent to kill before he’s truly established who that person is, gets the whole country’s sympathy merely because he’s a sportsman. It reminds me strongly of the OJ Simpson case.

  1. I think there seem to be as many people who bitterly blame as there are those who sympathise.
    If his account is totally true, though, I think the whole affair has the same tragedy as may be found in events leading to a fatal mistake at the wheel of a car. The mistake/s have the disasterous consequences because of perfect timing of a set of unfortunate circumstances, like a once-a-night train being at a particular crossing at a time when judgment was impaired – that sort of thing. I know I have been guilty of errors of judgment which only gave me an enormous fright and a bout of self-recrimination – but which COULD have cost a life.

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