Jama Research Article September 2020
This isn’t the first study to suggest a link between poor sleep and weight gain, but the authors argue the use of wearable technology like Fitbits gives researchers the opportunity to accurately track participants discreetly, without relying on the memory of the participants’ for data. The consequences of poor sleep result in qualitative and quantitative sleep deprivation, resulting in daytime sleepiness and poor productivity. Lack of energy and sleepiness or fatigue are often combated by caffeine and sugar, leading to weight gain and less exercise.
So How Much Sleep Is Needed?
Among the 120,522 participants involved in the study, the mean sleep duration was 6 hours and 47 minutes a night. Experts say this falls short of the 7.5 that’s recommended. A real clue whether you’re getting enough sleep or not is based on what you do on weekends. If somebody is sleeping in on a weekend routinely trying to catch up on sleep, they're obviously sleep-deprived during the week. The healthiest sleep is when there is a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Circadian rhythm disruption will cause problems, as anyone who’s ever experienced jet lag will confirm. Shift work with a night-time work schedule is considered by the WHO as ‘probably carcinogenic’ along with an increased incidence of breast, prostate, and lung cancer. Not to mention obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and miscarriages, the study suggested.
A Few Theories about the Link Between Poor Sleep and Obesity
The thinking is that people are staying up late and eating late at night because they have more time and that may be a factor. Also, people who are tired may be eating to keep themselves awake and then not getting adequate sleep. Impulsive behaviors may also play a role in snacking or overeating. When people don’t get enough sleep they tend to become more impulsive.
There is a link between poor sleep and hypertension, obesity, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, incident pneumonia, and Alzheimer's disease. On the extreme, you could die, because at the most basic level, people who don’t get enough sleep have shorter life spans to some degree.
We know now that the amount of sleep you get influences your immune response. Someone who is sleep deprived is more likely to get a virus or an infection and also won’t respond as well to immunizations. Anything that ails you physically or psychologically is made worse by lack of sleep.
Tips For Better Sleep Experts say it’s important to have a healthy sleep environment.
1) Have a regular time for bed, with relaxation a couple of hours beforehand. Have a consistent wake time, including weekends.
2) Avoid vigorous exercise, bright white light, or any level of blue light (including smartphones, tablets, computers, TV, etc.) before bedtime or during the night if you wake up. 3) Avoid excess caffeine (anytime) and alcohol before bedtime.
4) Take a warm bath or shower 1 to 2 hours before bedtime will improve sleep.
5) Be sure the bedroom is cool and comfortable. Your first step is to figure out how many hours of sleep you’re going to allow, reserve that time, and then we have the rest of the day to do whatever you want to do. But you can’t do the opposite, like ‘I’ll sleep whenever I have time." You can do that short term in a crisis situation, but it’s not a good way to live your life.
JAMA Intern Med. Published online September 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2834