Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Overweight - Are Late Nights Making You Fat?

It is no secret that the size of our population is increasing. And I do mean outwards rather than in numbers. Discussions as to why this is the case are numerous and include anything from the type of food that we eat, the serving size, gut toxicity and hormones imbalances.

And now a study (St-Onge, March 2011) has found that not enough sleep can contribute. The study found that when tired, women ate around 328.6 extra calories a day compared to men who ate 262.7 extra calories a day.

Having worked night shift for some years, this really comes as no surprise to me. Without adequate sleep it is difficult to motivate oneself to cook a healthy meal. For me personally, waking up after only a few hours of sleep always ended up in a trip to the fridge. Having witnessed what was eaten on night shift by my fellow workers in the hospital (sweets & lollies, chips from the vending machine etc.); it is also of no surprise that sleep deprived people put on weight.

But when it comes to putting on weight and sleeping irregular hours, other factors also come in to play. The body has its own 24 hour clock called the circadian rhythm which is programmed for sleeping and eating at specific times of the day. For example our adrenal hormones are raised early in the mornings to support us becoming active as we prepare ourselves for the day. Our digestive function is supposedly at its most active at 8am in the morning. So for shift workers, going to sleep in the daytime and staying away through the night is fighting against the inbuilt functions of our body.

Stress can often be the cause of problem sleep, especially if a person is waking between 2 and 3 am. Raised cortisol levels can be the result of stress. These hormones are glucose based and can subsequently disrupt the burning of fat.

As tempting as it may be to stay up late to watch a movie or to go out clubbing at 10 o'clock at night, remember that these habits do not support your health. If working night shift is unavoidable here's a few tips to help control your weight and your health.

Plan ahead to ensure that you have plenty of healthy food available in the house, otherwise you may be tempted to grab the first thing at hand when you wake up hungry.Take a packet of nuts to work with you - nibbling on these is a healthy option that provides a good source of protein, fat and carbohydrate.Take food to work with you. This way you are less likely to join in the early morning sugar hit that many of your work mates will be relying on to get them through their shift.Try to avoid eating 4 hours prior to sleep time or having caffeine drinks late into your shift. This will only make sleep matters worse.Be prepared to change your exercise habits - abandoning them while doing night work will not help with sleep or burning those extra calories that might sneak in each day.Increase your sleep quality by establishing an environment that is sleep enhancing e.g.blackening out your bedroom, reducing all noise e.g. using an air conditioner to block out unwanted noise, no television in the room. Also take the phone off the hook, ask the neighbours to keep quite, avoid stimulating activity (e.g. exercise) prior to sleep.

By incorporating a few of these simple steps, longterm health and weight issues could be avoided.

Vivienne Savill is an author, Naturopath and Nurse who runs a natural health clinic in Australia. She is passionate about teaching people how to maintain good health and prevent ill health, through the use of diet, nutrition, lifestyle and herbs. Vivienne has written numerous self help books including How to Stop Metabolic Syndrome: A Prevention and Treatment Guide to Insulin Resistance, Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease, which can be found at http://www.recipetohealth.com/.


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