If numbers tell the story, troubled sleeping habits could be turning Americans into fatties. According to the Food and Drug Administration, right now about 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from sleep problems. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts 63.3 % of the noninstitutionalized adult United States population as overweight or obese.
Granted eating habits, exercise and family history contribute to waistline expansion, mounting medical studies have demonstrated that the circadian rhythm can also induce a belly bulge. Circadian rhythms regulate the body’s metabolic activities like sleeping and waking.
Circadian rhythms also help the balance circulating glucose levels. The human body relies heavily on glucose for energy. As such, it is critical that the body maintains optimal amounts of glucose to handle the daily energy needs of the body. Cyclical environmental triggers like sunshine and darkness help inform the body of anticipated glucose needs.
However, a recent report in Obesity Reviews finds that the increasingly 24-hour lifestyle- with never closing stores, around-the-clock jobs and the ever present Internet- all invite ways to screw up circadian rhythms. Besides cuing the body to arise and sleep, circadian rhythms also help regulate cellular activities, such as fat burning for energy. Yet, disturbed sleep patterns disrupt the fat burning process.
For example, a study in Current Diabetes Reviews demonstrated that the disrupting body’s biological clock is often associated with metabolic diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension and obesity.
Even genetics may influence the circadian rhythm. Scientists have discovered a gene affecting body’s biological rhythms may also alter the body’s metabolism. The researchers observed that mice lacking the gene Nocturnin, which is regulated by the circadian clock in the organs and tissues of mammals, do not gain weight when put on a high fat diet and did not accumulate fat in the liver.
No matter what the cause of circadian rhythm woes, the FDA offers tips to help combat weight gain due to sleep disturbances:
-Go to bed and get up at the same times each day.
-Avoid caffeine, nicotine, beer, wine and liquor in the four to six hours before bedtime.
-Don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime.
-Don’t eat large meals within two hours of bedtime.
-Don’t nap later than 3 p.m.
-Sleep in a dark, quiet room that isn’t too hot or cold for you.
-If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something quiet.
-Wind down in the 30 minutes before bedtime by doing something relaxing.
If you suspect sleep problems are causing unwanted weight gain, the FDA recommends watching for these signs:
-Trouble paying attention
With all the diets available on the market today, the sleep-better-and-loose weight diet should catch on fast, and reduce the ranks of America’s fat and tired.
Bray, MS &, ME Young. Circadian rhythms in the development of obesity: potential role for the circadian clock within the adipocyte. Obesity Reviews; March 2007, vol 8, no 2, pp 169-181.
Food and Drug Administration. Sleep Disorders. 2006. http://www.fda.gov/womens/getthefacts/sleep.html
National Center for Health Statistics.2007. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm
Ruiter, Marieke, Ruud M Buijs,& Andries Kalsbeek. Hormones and the Autonomic Nervous System are Involved in Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Modulation of Glucose Homeostasis. Current Diabetes Reviews; May 2006, vol 2, no 2, pp 213-226.
University of Virginia. Clock Gene Plays Role in Weight Gain. Newswise, May 17, 2007.