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Snooze and Lose!



Snooze and Lose

 

While the neurocognitive sleep discoveries are impressive, there’s equally groundbreaking research on how sleep affects metabolism.

 

Five years ago, already aware of an association between sleep apnea and diabetes, Dr. Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago discovered a “neuroendocrine cascade” that links sleep to obesity.

Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat. Human growth hormone is also disrupted. Normally secreted as a big pulse at the beginning of sleep, growth hormone is essential for the breakdown of fat.

It’s drilled into us that we need to be more active to lose weight. So it spins the mind to hear that a key to staying thin is to spend more time doing the most sedentary inactivity humanly possible. Yet this is exactly what some scientists seem to be finding. In light of Van Cauter’s discoveries, sleep scientists have performed a flurry of analyses on children. All the studies point in the same direction: On average, children who sleep less are fatter than children who sleep more. This isn’t just in the U.S.; scholars around the world are considering it, as they watch sleep data fall and obesity rates rise in their own countries.

Three foreign studies showed strikingly similar results. One analyzed Japanese elementary students, one Canadian kindergarten boys, and one young boys in Australia. They all showed that kids who get less than eight hours of sleep have about a 300 percent higher rate of obesity than those who get a full ten hours of sleep. Within that two-hour window, it was a “dose-response” relationship, according to the Japanese scholars.

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Posted: 08-06-2012