Not Sleeping Enough Could Make You Fat and Antisocial: Part 1

Insomnia-300x199.jpgSleep affects your health in all kinds of ways; it’s not just all about diet and exercise. But getting enough sleep is in the same category as getting enough sunlight, lowering stress levels, and giving up Diet Coke: they’re all crucial to health enlightenment and yet they’re all regularly ignored by health seekers. Why does being healthy have to be so damn… life-altering?

It’s enough that you have to scrap the pasta, tofu, and cheddar cheese. Now you have to sleep more on top of it all. Who has the time? When you have 2 kids, an 8am-6pm job, a Paleo diet to maintain, CrossFit WODs to crush, backyard chickens to pamper, farmers markets to stroll, and reality TV to watch, that doesn’t leave many hours for sleeping. You’ll sleep when you’re dead.

But you may want to re-think how you’ve apportioned your daily hours because getting more sleep may just be the key to you losing those last 10 (50?) pounds. Or increasing your energy levels, turbo-charging your will to exercise, or finally ditching the Viagra. It may even help you eat better. Ever notice how when you’re tired you’re more prone to snacking? I know that if I get fewer than 8 hours of sleep, I’m tired, hungry, and grumpy, and I certainly don’t feel like exercising.

How much sleep do YOU get?

American Sleeping Trends
I know that a large percentage of you get fewer than 8 hours (the gold standard) of sleep a night. In fact, according to a 2009 Sleep In America poll done by the National Sleep Foundation, the average American sleeps about 6 hours and 40 minutes per night, from about 11pm to 6am on weekdays. Weekends aren’t much better with an average of about 7 hours and 7 minutes of sleep from about 11:25pm to 7am. My question is why would anyone ever wake up at 7am on a Saturday?? And this is just when people’s designated sleeping hours are – not necessarily when they’re actually asleep because according to the study, 64% of people have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep at least a few nights a week. Also, since 2002 the trend has been a decrease in number of hours slept. More people are reporting sleeping fewer than 6 hours and fewer are reporting sleeping at least 8.

Here’s why you should get some sleep.

Compared with people in the study who slept for 8 or more hours regularly, the people who got fewer than 6 hours of sleep were less likely to do the following:

exercise
do fun things
be satisfied with their lives
have sex
eat well
eat breakfast
eat 3 meals a day
work efficiently and well
eat 4 servings of fruits and veggies a day

And they were more likely to do the following:

be obese
miss family functions (this is where the anti-social part of the title comes from)
drink caffeine
eat sugary foods
smoke
eat unhealthily

So that’s an overview of the sleep habits in America. If you’re interested, check out that study – it’s incredibly interesting and telling.

Where are you in this whole thing? Do you find yourself craving sugary foods every day, not having the energy for everyday things, or not being able to make it through the day without caffeine?  In the next blog post, I’ll cover what actually happens in your body when you don’t sleep enough. Then we’ll go into how to get more sleep, or at least how to improve the sleep you do get, and how your Paleo diet (or not) affects your sleep.