Wouldn’t be nice if we didn’t have to sleep 8 hours, or 10 hours in my case. We might be able to get half the things done that we have to do. But sleeping might be more successful than dieting and exercise for losing weight. Of course beating diet and exercise isn’t saying much.
We have a pacemaker in our brains called the suprachiasmic nucleus (SCN) that acts as the regulator of the human circadian rhythm of sleep and awake cycles. The SCN regulates the release of 2 hormones, cortisol that triggers waking up and melatonin which signals going to sleep. The organs of the body respond to these signals but also have clocks of their own. Eating and metabolism and consequently obesity and diabetes seem to be influenced by this ticking symphony.
Mice are active and eating during the night but sleep during the day. A study of mice with mutations of the “clock” gene that regulates their circadian rythm, sleep less and eat at the wrong times. They also get obese and metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes when fed the same diet that does not make normal mice fat.
Also normal mice only fed during the day gained more weight than mice fed during their normal wake period at night.
In humans a glucose tolerance test, the standard test for diabetes, that is normal in the morning when you’re supposed to be eating may be abnormal at night when you’re not supposed to be eating.
It has been found that lack of sleep reduces resting metabolic rate and increases hunger. Workers with overnight shifts are more prone to obesity and diabetes.
Studies have shown that our prolonged days lead to eating over 15 hours or more in a day and more than a third of those calories after 6 pm. Subjects who are used to eating like this lost an average of 7 pounds just by restricting their eating to 10 to 12 hours a day. They also reported sleeping better, snacking less, and becoming less tolerant to very sweet foods. In this study “one participant emailed to say he felt time restricted eating is ‘the best diet because it does not deprive him of his favorite foods, and he’s still losing weight.’”
We violate nature’s design for sleeping at our peril but it is fun and easy not too. Well you just have to get less done or get better organized.
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org or phone-354-6605.