The STEM 1.0 Academic Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Sleep affects what and how much you eat. The worse you sleep, the more likely you are to go for that unhealthy snack. This is because sleep helps regulate the amount of leptin and ghrelin in your body, which are the hormones that control and manage your appetite and satiety.

2. People who sleep less than six hours per night have almost double the risk of obesity compared to those who sleep six hours or more.Lack of sleep also disrupts insulin metabolism, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

3. Sleeping well helps us to manage our appetite, avoid cravings for sugar and high fat foods, and improve our body composition (more muscle, less fat).

People who sleep less than six hours per night have almost double the risk of obesity compared to those who sleep six hours or more. The Canadian Obesity Network recently added sleep as one of its top recommendations.

We are in the midst of a worldwide obesity epidemic. We are also sleeping less than we ever have in history. Amazingly, those two problems are connected. Sleep helps regulate the amount of leptin and ghrelin in your body. Those are hormones that help to control and manage your appetite and satiety. So if you sleep better, you’re better able to avoid cravings for sugar and high fat foods.

But wait, there’s more!

Lack of sleep also disrupts insulin metabolism, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Recent research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Dr. Matthew Brady and his team showed that after four nights of sleeping four and a half hours each night, the fat cells of the participants acted like the cells of people with full-blown Type 2 diabetes. What that means is that the fat cells became insensitive to insulin. Total body insulin response decreased 16% and fat cell response decreased 30%.

The bottom line: only a short period of sleeplessness changes the metabolism of your cells – as if you have Type 2 diabetes. That’s really not good.

Slow down, do less, sleep more – it’s not only possible, it’s a requirement of a high-performance life. Sleeping well will help you manage your appetite and improve your body composition (more muscle, less fat).

A great biohack for using nutrition to sleep better and vice versa is to have a small protein snack right before you fall asleep. Research has shown that protein ingestion before sleep improves protein synthesis (like building muscles) by about 22% when compared to a placebo pre-bed snack.

Today's POWER-UP: Eat Your Way to Sleep

Food affects our energy level: some foods rev us up and some foods calm us down. As you begin to make some changes in your life to sleep better, it’s good to know the difference.

Here are some calming, sleep-inducing foods that are great before bed: non-dairy milk, bananas, oats, yogurt and sunflower seeds. So if you need a post-dinner snack, try a bowl of plain yogurt with berries and sunflower seeds or fruit like berries or a banana.

But there are some foods that stress our bodies and can keep us awake at night. Some classic body-stress foods are those high in fat, because they require a lot of digestive energy and stimulate the production of acid in the stomach. Spicy foods can also place a heavy burden on your digestive system. 

Bottom line: avoid spicy or fatty foods before bed. Of course, those big greasy meals are not healthy in general. But if you are going to indulge once in awhile, make sure you do it at least four hours before sleep.

Dive Deeper: The Dr. Greg Wells Podcast

Recently I interviewed Dr. Charles Samuels from the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance for my podcast. To learn more about sleep you can listen to the interview here.