Sleep - Change Your Body Shape

We all know that when you don't sleep properly your body is affected in lots of ways. You may feel lethargic, craving heavy complex carbohydrates; bread, potatoes and pasta or quick fix sugary foods such as cakes, fizzy and alcoholic drinks or sweets. You may just feel like your daily life exhausts you, not realising that by staying awake in artificial light surpasses the intension of Mother Nature. Your body uses energy, which has been produced by the same systems. The quality of this energy is depends on a couple of factors.

When you don't sleep there are at least 10 different hormones and many neurotransmitters in the brain, that go out of sync.

Shorter nights mean less melatonin is produced, less melatonin means more oestrogen and testosterone , plus more cortisol and more insulin are produced. All of which flood our body and upset its natural balance. So what does that mean? To the point without the science!

For instance, Its possible to have a comparatively fat belly, but be lean everywhere else. Or what about the person who has noticeably fat legs but hardly any fat stored elsewhere? This does not just happen randomly! There is a storage of fat where our hormones dictate; those fat legs may be the result of an oestrogen imbalance and that fat belly could be caused by excess cortisol (caused by stress).

Put simply, where you store your fat is determined by what hormones are imbalanced. Despite the common myth that a lie in at the weekend can help you catch up on sleep - in fact, you're chasing a freight train on foot my friend and you won't be gaining momentum any time soon.

As a race we are sick because we don't sleep enough. We are overweight and diabetic because we don't sleep enough. We are dying from cancer and heart disease because we don't sleep enough. No amount of exercise or healthy salads will make up for the deficit.

In fact, we're eating less fat and exercising more, but not only do we look incredibly bad, but levels of heart disease, cancer and diabetes are at an all-time high.

Why? Ok, so food and exercise are a part of the equation but are not the sole answer, it lies within circadian rhythm and evolution.

Really, I hear you ask, and what an earth does that mean? Here comes the science part! The hormones melatonin and prolactin communicate with your immune system and metabolic energy system to differentiate between light and dark cycles. Keep the lights on and stay up – just see how that affects you the next day! Insulin and prolactin orchestrate the chemistry of your brain which oversees serotonin and dopamine – which controls your behaviour towards food and sex too (YES, if you don't get enough shut eye – not only will you crave 'bad' food but it can affect what goes on between the sheets too!).

Getting the picture? Not enough sleep makes you fat, hungry, impotent, hypertensive and cancerous, with a bad heart. How many doctors tell you that?

The body is a well oiled machine. You can't short change it of sleep – otherwise it reacts like a badly behaved child (demanding sweets and refusing to perform the tasks you set it – mental or physical). By cancelling the night using light you are affecting the natural order. To understand your body you need to remember that we were evolved over millennia to recognise cues in nature. By keeping the lights on your body recognises the artificial light as late summer, a time of ''feast'' to endure the ''famine'' that always followed- until now. You see famine doesn't come, we have altered nature to our heart's content, we eat like famine is near, feasting on carbohydrates to store fat for a time when food is scarce and you should be hibernating. We put on our winter coat so to speak, but the problem is, we do this all year round!

Insulin is the only hormone that you can directly influence, but is becoming a worldwide killer which links the 3 S's; STRESS, SUGAR AND SLEEP!

The Question on your lips....

How can i solve this? Here are a few tips to start you off;

  • If it doesn't swim, fly or run don't eat it!
  • If it isn't from trees or soil then don't eat it!
  • Limit carbohydrates to no more than100g in winter, ideally root vegetables. In our natural habitat this would be an essential nutrient throughout winter months.
  • Get to bed before 11pm latest and get at least 8.5 hours of shut eye.
  • Turn off all surrounding lights in your bedroom this includes standby lights on TV's, phones or computers.

These are just a few minor changes that can have great benefits on your general well being and health for years to come.

Nick Doughty