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Sleep and Physical Health

Our diet is affected by our sleep. Individuals that do not get enough sleep are more likely to overeat, binge eat, snack late at night, or reach for unhealthy food choices (4,17). This is most likely because individuals that are not getting enough sleep are more likely to have low energy levels as a result and try to make up for it by getting more calories as their body will feel hungry.

In the same grain, individuals that that have sleep problems are more likely to be obese (2,4,15). This is most likely to be from the negative effect sleep has on our metabolism and our bodies ability to burn calories and fat (13).

Lack of sleep has also been linked to lower athletic performance (4,13). This should be no surprise as anyone who has tried to go to the gym or do any physical activity after a night of very little sleep, or feeling exhausted, will know it is hard to get through a workout. In all reality, most people that feel tired probably end up skipping the workout all together in order to take a nap or do some type of activity that takes less energy.

There is a large amount of research related to sleep and it’s effect on cardiovascular disease or risk (12,20). Inflammation has been linked to just about every health problem or disease such as cancer, heart disease, depression, and joint pain. Lack of sleep has been shown to be related to an increase of inflammation within the body (10,13). With inflammation being such a large factor on the body, those that get more sleep may also have a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke (1,8).

No one likes to get sick, and when we are tired, we are more likely to have a hard time fighting off sickness or viruses that we may have come in contact with during the day. I know for myself the only time I ever get sick is when I have not been getting enough sleep and it has started to catch up to me. Sleep affects our immune system in many different ways (3,6,7). When we do sleep it gives our body strength to fight disease, recover, and be in the best shape overall. This can be from anything as simple as the common cold, all the way to more severe illnesses such as influenza (5,6,7).

Lack of sleep has been shown to effect ones hormones in a negative way as well (11). During sleep, cortisol hormone levels lower, which is known as the stress hormone. Another hormone, insulin, also lowers which when it raises our body holds onto additional fat. Getting sleep can help our body regulate our hormones better in order to feel better and be less stressed. Prolactin is released during sleep, which is known for the hormone to help women lactate after giving birth, is also important for men and non-pregnant women as it is known to help with the metabolism, immunity, reproduction, and mental health (9, 16). Human growth hormone is also effected by sleep and is responsible for cell growth, reproduction, and regeneration (18,19).

The body holds onto toxins in different places of the body as a result of stress, coming into contact with toxins in our environment, and the food that we eat. A study on mice suggests that during sleep the brain cells grow further apart and cerebral fluid flushes out during sleep. It is during this time that the brain may be cleansing itself and getting rid of these toxins (21).

So, it’s a balance: we need to get enough sleep, but to be sure not to oversleep by too much. Be sure to find consistency in your sleep schedule. Hopefully you will find the benefits from the proper amount of sleep soon.


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  2. Beccuti, G., & Pannain, S. (2011). Sleep and obesity. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 14(4), 402-412. doi:10.1097/mco.0b013e3283479109

  3. Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2011). Sleep and immune function. Pflügers Archiv - European Journal of Physiology, 463(1), 121-137. doi:10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0

  4. Chaput, J. (2014). Sleep patterns, diet quality and energy balance. Physiology & Behavior, 134, 86-91. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.09.00

  5. Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Alper, C. M., Janicki-Deverts, D., & Turner, R. B. (2009). Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(1), 62. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2008.505

  6. Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 09(11), 1195-1200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170

  7. Ganz, F. D. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Critical Care Nurse, 32(2). doi:10.4037/ccn2012689

  8. Huang T, Mariani S, Redline S. Sleep Irregularity and Risk of Cardiovascular Events: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020 Mar 10;75(9):991-999. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2019.12.054. PMID: 32138974; PMCID: PMC7237955.

  9. Ignacak A, Kasztelnik M, Sliwa T, Korbut RA, Rajda K, Guzik TJ. Prolactin--not only lactotrophin. A "new" view of the "old" hormone. Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 2012 Oct;63(5):435-43. PMID: 23211297.

  10. Irwin, M. R., Olmstead, R., & Carroll, J. E. (2016). Sleep disturbance, sleep duration, and inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies and experimental sleep deprivation. Biological Psychiatry, 80(1), 40-52. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.05.014

  11. Kim, T. W., Jeong, J. H., & Hong, S. C. (2015). The impact of sleep and circadian disturbance on hormones and metabolism. International journal of endocrinology, 2015, 591729.

  12. Meier-Ewert, H., Ridker, P., & Rifai, N. (2004). Effect of sleep loss on c-reactive protein an inflammatory marker of cardiovascular risk. ACC Current Journal Review, 13(4), 18. doi:10.1016/j.accreview.2004.03.057

  13. Morselli LL, Guyon A, Spiegel K. Sleep and metabolic function. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan;463(1):139-60. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-1053-z. Epub 2011 Nov 19. PMID: 22101912; PMCID: PMC3289068.

  14. Reilly, T., & Piercy, M. (1994). The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance. Ergonomics,37(1), 107-115. doi:10.1080/00140139408963628

  15. Sa, J., Choe, S., Cho, B., Chaput, J., Kim, G., Park, C., . . . Kim, Y. (2020). Relationship between sleep and obesity among U.S. and South Korean college students. BMC Public Health, 20(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-020-8182-2

  16. Torner L. (2016). Actions of Prolactin in the Brain: From Physiological Adaptations to Stress and Neurogenesis to Psychopathology. Frontiers in endocrinology, 7, 25.

  17. Trace, S. E., Thornton, L. M., Runfola, C. D., Lichtenstein, P., Pedersen, N. L., & Bulik, C. M. (2012). Sleep problems are associated with binge eating in women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(5), 695-703. doi:10.1002/eat.22003

  18. Van Cauter, E. (1992). A quantitative estimation of growth hormone secretion in normal man: Reproducibility and relation to sleep and time of day. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 74(6), 1441-1450. doi:10.1210/jc.74.6.1441

  19. Van Cauter, E. (1992). Sleep, awakenings, and insulin-like growth Factor-i modulate the growth hormone (gh) SECRETORY response to Gh-releasing hormone. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 74(6), 1451-1459. doi:10.1210/jc.74.6.1451

  20. Van Leeuwen, W. M., Lehto, M., Karisola, P., Lindholm, H., Luukkonen, R., Sallinen, M., . . . Alenius, H. (2009). Sleep restriction increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by Augmenting Proinflammatory responses through IL-17 and Crp. PLoS ONE, 4(2). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004589

  21. Xie, L., Kang, H., Xu, Q., Chen, M. J., Liao, Y., Thiyagarajan, M., . . . Nedergaard, M. (2013). Sleep drives Metabolite clearance from the adult brain. Science, 342(6156), 373-377. doi:10.1126/science.1241224

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