Is Sleep Making You FAT?
You have seen it on TV. You read it in the magazines. You eat too many carbs, you need to do more cardio. This food is super, that one is not. In fact, when it comes to weight gain and weight loss, everyone seems to be focussing on 2 things - diet and exercise. So, what if I told you that one variable that overrides both of these when it comes to your weight, has nothing to do with food and is more about lying about than moving about? That variable is sleep and more importantly good quality sleep.
We spend a third of our lives sleeping. If you look at your day time activities, you might do one hour of exercise or so in a day. As for eating, that might be 2 hours of your time in a day. So, there is 3 hours of your time. Compare that to sleeping which should be about 8 hours. But how many of us take our sleep seriously?
How do you plan your day? Think about that question for a moment. You plan what time to get to work, drop the kids off at school, do yoga and if there are any stereotypical generalisations, add that to the list too. Then sleep time comes along. Often this is what you do when everything is done. There is no plan or structure and if needs be, you will burn the candle at both ends with late nights and then an early morning to catch up. Sleep is a vital activity that is just one of those things that you just do. There is no plan.
How does sleep make you fat?
Well good quality sleep doesn’t. But bad quality sleep does. And in terms of poor quality sleep, look no further than a condition called sleep apnoea to prove this point. Sleep apnoea is snoring that becomes so bad that you start choking in your sleep. This causes a stress response in the body that leads to high blood sugars in some people. This high blood sugar can then lead to a fatty liver and diabetes. Forget about eating carbs - your body is making carb levels (that is what sugar is) go higher. And this can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
What other health factors relate to sleep apnoea?
Poor sleep, which is what comes with sleep apnoea, makes you tired. When you are tired, you tend not to be as active. So, your desire and motivation to exercise can drop off. Now you’re putting on weight because you are tired. But wait- there is more! People with sleep apnoea, when their food seeking behaviour is checked with special testing, start to develop
SLEEP APNOEA IS SNORING THAT BECOMES SO BAD THAT YOU START CHOKING IN YOUR SLEEP.
food cravings for high calorie, low nutrition meals. You guessed it - fat making food. As if this does not sound like a recipe for getting fat, there is yet another problem that is the literal icing on the cake.
Gut bacteria: both good and bad bacteria.
It is a fascinating area of research and is worth investing some internet time learning about good and bad bacteria. The bad bacteria in your gut process food in such a way that it can make you fat. The good bacteria can process the same food in such a way that you don’t get fat. Now we all have good and bad bacteria in our gut and these need to be in balance. Guess what happens in those people with low oxygen levels from sleep apnoea? The bad bacteria love it and the good bacteria don’t. So, the bad bacteria multiply and you end up with fat making microbes feasting on your high fat food and raising your blood sugars and feeding your fat cells. None of this is good. Even if you are eating the right foods and exercising, your body system is not allowing your weight to budge in a hurry.
So, what is the good news? Seeing an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to assess your breathing for sleep apnoea, is a great place to start. Not all ENT specialists are involved in sleep apnoea management, so it is important to check first. They will assess your airway, look for blockages and discuss management which may include using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for adults, medication, surgery, diet, exercise and even some crazy things like blowing balloons!
Dr David McIntosh is a paediatric ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist with a particular interest in airway obstruction, facial and dental development and its relationship to ENT airway problems and middle ear disease. He also specialises in sinus disease and provides opinions on the benefit of revision of previous sinus operations. Dr McIntosh can be contacted via website.
NEEDS THERE BALANCE TO BE A GOOD & BETWEEN BAD BACTERIA IN OUR GUT.