Getting enough sleep each night is critical to your overall health and impacts many of your bodily functions—including your mood, mental clarity, immune system, and disease risk factor. Furthermore, sleep also plays a vital role in managing your weight as it influences your hormones and metabolism.
Yet, not only can a lack of sleep lead to weight gain, but carrying around excess weight can cause sleep troubles – such as sleep apnea. Therefore, individuals who are not getting enough sleep are at risk of becoming obese, and once obese, those individuals will have a more difficult time getting quality sleep.
Individuals who suffer from sleep deprivation can experience adverse side effects related to their health over time. When we talk about being sleep deprived, we refer to not going through enough REM and non-REM sleep cycles, which ultimately affects your ability to function at your optimal point throughout the day.
When you do not get enough sleep each night, your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, an overactive thyroid, and obesity increases significantly. Many studies have shown sleep deprivation increases the risk of heart disease by nearly 50% and triples the risk of type 2 diabetes.
However, it is not just sleep deprivation that can lead to excess weight gain but also staying up late. Research studies have found that individuals who stayed up late were more likely to eat large dinners and use tobacco or alcohol products, ultimately putting them at a higher risk of developing health problems down the road.
In individuals who stayed up late, the risk of developing heart disease increased by 58%, and the risk of developing diabetes increased by 121% compared to people who went to bed at a decent hour and woke up early.
The disruption to the body’s natural circadian rhythm affects its ability to heal and restore itself during sleep hours. Your circadian rhythm is the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle the body goes through to balance and carry out essential functions. The brain was developed to follow the circadian rhythm, otherwise known as the sleep-wake cycle, based on light, which is why the circadian rhythm is tied to night and day.
When your sleep-wake cycle is regulated, the body will be able to cycle through the appropriate stages of REM and non-REM and thus restore your body and brain during sleep. On the contrary, when your circadian rhythm is thrown off by staying up late, your body is not able to heal and be restored at the most optimal level.
Our bodies are centered around this “master clock,” which during hours of light (day time) signals the body to feel alert to keep us active. Whereas at night, the master clock signals the body to produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, and keeps producing melatonin to help us stay asleep throughout the night.
Individuals who frequently disrupt their circadian rhythm due to staying up late are at an increased risk of developing sleep problems, such as insomnia or wakefulness throughout the night, as well as sleep apnea—which we know is exacerbated by obesity.
If you suffer from obesity, it would be beneficial to develop better sleep-wake habits to promote a healthier lifestyle. Similarly, it is important for all individuals to stick to a consistent sleep-wake cycle regulated by day and night to improve their overall health. Although we understand that some individuals cannot adhere to the “normal” sleep-wake cycles regulated by light due to their job or travel, we encourage you to still set and follow a consistent sleep schedule to help regulate the body and promote restoration during sleep.