Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Dear Readers:

One healthy and relatively easy way to help children prevent or minimize their susceptibility to excess weight gain is to simply make sure that they get a good, full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Sufficient sleep is a very important component of weight management, along with a healthy diet, proper exercise, and positive emotional support.

Most Westernized children get fewer hours of sleep and less quality sleep than they need, which can disrupt the hormones that help control weight gain, says Dr. Shahrad Taheri from Bristol University*. While sleep is only one factor contributing to weight gain, it has ripple effects on nearly all of the other factors. Studies show that sleep deprivation disrupts the production of hormones that regulate both appetite and energy expenditure. For example, the level of ghrelin, a hormone released by the stomach that tells us when we are hungry, was found to be 15% higher in people who have only five hours' sleep per night than those getting a full eight hours. This link between obesity and too little sleep is strongest in children and teens. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the UK (conducted in the 1990s) revealed that insufficient sleep at thirty months was a predictor of the propensity toward obesity at age seven.

How else does the lack of sleep contribute to why we gain excess weight? I’ve come up with some ideas. Let me know what else you’ve observed:

• When you sleep less there is more opportunity to fit in an extra meal or late night snack;
• You don’t burn many calories while you do sleep, so late night food is not being used and is being stored as fat;
• If you eat heavy food late at night, it contributes to troubled sleep quality by causing such problems as heartburn, indigestion, nausea and sometimes disturbing dreams;
• When you’re chronically tired you feel unmotivated to do anything active;
• If you aren’t active, your metabolism is slower and you are more tired and less likely to become active, choosing instead such sedentary activities as watching television, playing video games, emailing or talking on the phone;
• When you are involved in sedentary activities it tends to be easier to lose track of time and stay up too can see the vicious cycle...

From personal experience, I can tell you that making the choice to not eat anything heavy late at night and getting adequate sleep is a great investment in your family’s health. Along with the focus and willpower I gained from my martial arts training, the change in my late night eating and getting better sleep made me more willing and able to exercise. Before martial arts training, I would force myself to be active, and was so tired I would keep pushing the snooze button and get up at the last minute, with very little motivation to get going on my daily activities. I would be so exhausted I would escape by reading or watching tv at night, and before I knew it I was up too late, and the cycle started all over again.

If you exclude late night munching, get better sleep, and incorporate a program that engages you to help you to stay on track with your personal and fitness goals, you and your family will be well on your way to a healthier, happier future.

* “Childhood Obesity Linked to Youngsters Staying Up Too Late," based on UK research in an article by JENNY HOPE -19th October 2006.

--Sifu Cinda Hocking


Douglas Castle said...

Dear Cinda:

My compliments on an excellent and uniquely informative post. Very few people realize the role that proper sleep plays in the body's chemistry and metabolism. I would be very interested in learning more about the effects of sleep patterns on melatonin production, neurotransmitters and mood, as well. My instincts tell me that there is also a link between weight maintenance issues and depression.

Off the record, after reading your post, I aborted my planned late night outing to Burger King, and just went to sleep.

All the best,

Douglas Castle,

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