Sleep Disorders

Updated 11 August 2014

Too little sleep can make you fat

Numerous studies have proven the physical and emotional health benefit of getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night.

An increase in the amount and quality of shut-eye should be at the top of everyone’s New Year’s Resolution list as numerous studies have proven the physical and emotional health benefit of getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. This is according to Doctor Jacques Snyman, clinical advisor for Resolution Health Medical Scheme.

“Various studies have proven the power of regular, sufficient and quality sleep with results showing a marked increase in memory, learning, creativity, productivity, emotional stability and physical health.

In fact, the Ryerson University of Toronto found that curing insomnia in people with depression doubled their chance of a full recovery,” Snyman highlights.

It can even help you to lose weight with a Brigham Young University study revealing that higher quality sleep of 8.5 hours a night is associated with a lower body fat percentage.

Read:  6 ways to prevent insomnia

Adverse effect on hormones

“If you don’t maintain a consistent and unvarying sleeping pattern, it can cause problems with your circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of humans. When the body’s circadian clock is thrown off by external factors, such as a lack of sleep or jetlag, it has an adverse effect on the hormones and the body’s internal structure, ultimately affecting weight loss”.

An inadequate amount of sleep can also result in a number of negative implications for one’s health, including obesity, hypertension, heart and blood vessel disease and diabetes, as well as possible harmful effects on mental health.

”Lifestyle plays a significant role in the development of certain diseases and it is critical for people to understand that simple changes to their daily routine, such as getting enough sleep, consuming less alcohol, factoring exercise into their schedule and giving up smoking, can improve their health and strongly reduce the risk of contracting certain diseases.” says Snyman.

Why 8 hours?

Your sleep progresses in stages, each of which is vital to optimum mental and physical health. To get the most out of each stage, you must allow your body enough time to naturally progress from one to the other.

The point where you hover between being awake and asleep is known as stage one of sleep and serves as the lead into stage two sleep. During this phase you start to become disengaged from your surroundings and your body temperature starts to drop.

Read: Sleep or die

Stage three is your deepest, most restorative and most important phase. During this stage, blood pressure drops, breathing becomes slower and blood supply to your muscles increases substantially. This phase is associated with tissue growth and repairs, energy restoration and the release of various hormones.

Your first Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle occurs approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep and reoccurs every 90 minutes thereafter, increasing in length the longer you are asleep. The less you sleep, the fewer REM cycles you go through. Energy is provided to your body and brain while your body and muscles are completely relaxed.

Sleeping tips

– Where possible, stick to a regular routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time.

– Add a relaxing pre-sleep ritual into your daily routine. For instance a warm bath, reading a book, or a cup of herbal tea.

– Exercise daily.

– Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, coffee and heavy meals 2 – 3 hours before bedtime.

– Create a sleep inducing environment: dark, quiet and cool.

“Getting sufficient sleep is one of the easiest ways to improve your lifestyle and basic health. Thankfully, it’s a rather enjoyable activity to add to your New Year’s Resolution list and not hard to incorporate into your everyday life.” Snyman concludes.

Read more:

Sleep vs. no sleep

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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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