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  • Mark Brafield

Sleep your way thin

In my last post on 'Celebrity Weight Loss' (29 January 2018) I explored the relationship between weight loss and two important hormones in your system, leptin and ghrelin.

In his thought - provoking new book, 'Why we Sleep' (Allen Lane, 2017), Matthew Walker explores how sleeping badly disturbs the balance of these two important regulators. In short, he explains how sleeping poorly reduces the concentration of leptin (which tells you that you have had enough) whilst simultaneously increasing the level of ghrelin (which tells you that you need to eat more).

As a result, if you do not get enough sleep, you lose control of your hunger response and will continue to feel hungry even if you are actually eating more than enough. Curiously, this answered a question that had often occurred to me; why was it that when I got up at, say, 3 o'clock in the morning to go on holiday, I felt ravenous, when I felt less hungry if I slept a further 4 hours and woke naturally at 7 o'clock.

And the cumulative effect of this disturbance is extraordinary; when your sleep is deprived, you will eat more than 300 extra calories each day , or 70,000 extra calories a year, the equivalent of gaining 10 to 15 pounds of weight each year.

More remarkable still, if you try to diet whilst not sleeping well enough you will lose weight, but from muscle mass, not fat. So you will lose weight, but in the wrong way.

And the answer to all of this ? As in so much of this work, if you reduce your stress level you will sleep better, and if you sleep better your body's weight management system will find its balance once again. And how do you reduce stress ? Well, you can come and see me for a start.

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