Sleep and Metabolism: Why Too Much or Too Little Sleep May Be Harmful
We all know how getting too much or too little sleep makes us feel groggy, or worse. When that sleep pattern becomes regular, we’re more likely to grit our teeth and bear it than we are to change our habits. Unfortunately, imbalanced sleep does a lot more than make you feel terrible –sleep deprivation also hurts your metabolism. That’s what a recent study published in BMC Public Health, a peer reviewed journal, suggests.
What the Study Shows
This study on sleep and metabolism came from South Korea’s Seoul National University College of Medicine; it analyzed data sourced via the HEXA study, which is more broadly investigating environmental and genetic factors for chronic disease in the country. The researchers discovered a strong correlation between habitually getting either less than six hours or ten or more hours of sleep each day and occurrences of metabolic syndrome and related health risks. (Metabolic syndrome alone increases the risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.) The data was for 133,608 Korean men and women between the ages of 40 and 69. Subjects self-reported their total amount of sleep for the day, combining nightly sleep with naps at any other point that day.
More specifically, at less than six hours of sleep, men were more likely to have metabolic syndrome (including high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and abnormal cholesterol) and obesity, while ten or more hours added the risk of high triglycerides. Women were less likely to have symptoms of metabolic syndrome but still had the risk of obesity at less than six hours of sleep. However, they were significantly more affected by ten or more hours, which put them at risk of the same metabolic syndrome symptoms (barring blood pressure) and obesity, as well as low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high fasting glucose.
So How Much Sleep Does Your Metabolism Need?
The short answer is easy: between six and ten hours of sleep represents optimal metabolism. However, as you might guess, the answer is more nuanced than that. When digging into the study, it quickly becomes evident that the real sweet spot is between six and eight hours of sleep.
That being said, everybody is a little bit different. How sleep affects your metabolism may be different than the person beside you. Other health factors may influence the amount of sleep you need as well. The most important thing is discovering the best amount of sleep for you and doing your best to ensure you get that amount of sleep every night.
Tips for Getting the Best Amount of Sleep for Your Metabolism
While sleep does affect your metabolism, there are a variety of things you can do to help ensure you fall asleep at the right time, sleep deeply and uninterrupted, and wake up on time, too. This list should help get you started, but don’t be afraid to discuss your needs with your doctor if you still aren’t sleeping properly.
- Review when you’re sleeping. If you’re getting a lot of late afternoon naps, it could be making it difficult to sleep properly later. Alternately, you may not realize how much sleep you’re really getting.
- Develop a regular sleep schedule. That doesn’t just include having an alarm for when you need to wake up – set an alarm to remind you to go to bed if you need to. This includes the weekends.
- Develop a regular exercise schedule. Exercising also helps regulate your metabolism, as well as your appetite. Give your body a consistent rhythm between waking, exercising, and sleeping.
- Review when you’re eating, and what you’re eating. Heavy meals before bed can cause indigestion that disrupts sleep, and caffeine may continue to affect you physically even if you don’t cognitively experience it. Don’t go to bed hungry, either.
- Consider the condition of your mattress and pillows. They can disrupt sleep when they need to be replaced, or they may be too inviting. Remember the bed is where you recharge, and shouldn’t be so comfortable you never want to leave.
- Don’t hit the snooze button. You need to wake up on time every day, so you may want to get a new alarm or two to add something to the equation.
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool when you need to sleep, but ensure your room is bright when you need to wake up. Expose yourself to sunlight as quickly as possible to set your circadian rhythm. If you can’t have your curtains opened with your alarm, some lights are set to “sunrise”, getting brighter and brighter until you need to be awake.
- Process your thoughts, concerns, and stressors from the day. The stress may amp you up, keeping your thoughts churning and preventing you from sleep. Alternately, they may make it difficult for you to wake up if your psyche is avoiding dealing with them.
Each of our bodies processes our daily activities and nutrition a bit differently, but there are some truths that are universal for sleep and optimum metabolism. Regularly getting less than six hours of sleep and more than 10 exposes you to serious health risks like low HDL cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. Fortunately, you can improve your sleep patterns alongside a concentrated weight loss effort. Take advantage of the tips listed to get achieve your ideal weight with metabolism-boosting sleep patterns.