Irregular sleep patterns or lack of shut-eye could be behind those stubborn pounds you've mysteriously piled on – as lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes and obesity, scientists warn.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have discovered people who have less than five and a half hours sleep a night - or those with imbalanced sleep patterns - are at higher risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The research team enlisted the help of 21 healthy volunteers and monitored how their body reacted to sudden changes in sleeping patterns.
For 21 days before the experiment began, the volunteers slept normally (10 hours a night).
Then when the 35-day trial kicked off, each person was asked to spend 16 hours each day in bed for five days, with no limitation on the amount of sleep they wished to have. They were then instructed to spend a further 21 days having the maximum of 5.6 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period.
Finally, for the last nine days of the study, participants underwent a ‘circadian re-entertainment’ process which involved them sleeping for 10 hours a night, going to bed at the same time each evening.
During the study, researchers monitored the volunteers metabolic and body weight, as well as insulin levels and metabolic responses.
Researchers found that participants’ metabolic rate dropped (on average) by 8%, which means that each participant was at danger of gaining around 10 pounds to a stone in weight over a year as a result.
The study discovered that when the body’s natural circadian rhythms (the ‘internal body clock’ that controls energy levels and appetite) are disrupted by sleep deprivation or varying sleep patterns, this triggers poor glucose regulation and metabolism. Both of these increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.
Highlighting previous evidence between shift workers irregular sleep patterns and weight-gain to back-up their findings, Orfeu Buxton from the study, told the Science Translational Medicine journal:
“Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day.
“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect."
These findings follow a previous study by scientists at Yale University, who discovered a link between our sleep patterns and the gene that controls the immune system.
Scientists from Rockefeller University also claimed they have discovered the ‘insomnia gene’ that could pave the way for curing sleep disturbances…
Struggling to sleep at night?
Find out how to rest easy and beat the insomniacs curse with these expert sleep tips.
10 Ways To Beat Insomnia
Expert tips from Cognitive Therapist <strong><a href="http://lesleymccall.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Lesley McCall</a></strong>.
Drown It Out
"If you want to drown out internal chatter try holding the tip of your tongue towards the roof of your mouth without actually touching it until the chatter stops."
Wiggle Your Toes
"It sounds simple (and a little silly) but wriggling your toes while lying in bed until you feel sleepy, helps the body relax."
Wait For The Right Moment
"Only go to bed when you feel tired. If you have been in bed for longer than 30 minutes and you are still awake, get up and do something boring until you feel sleepy again. Don't do something stimulating such as watch TV or eat, as this will send your unconscious the wrong message - that it gets rewarded for not sleeping."
Do A 'Brain Dump'
"Many of us go to bed with worries on our mind that can keep us awake - so get rid of them. Do a 'brain dump' before bed. Spend 10 minutes writing down what is on your mind or compile a 'to-do' list. Keep writing even if you are only jotting down sort notes or long scribbles."
"Try and relax for 30 minutes before bed to ensure you get good quality sleep - because remember, it's not just the quantity but quality of your sleep that matters. Try not to take the stress of the day into sleep with you as this will mean that the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is needed for de- stressing the mind, will increase, leaving less time for the slow wave sleep, which refreshes us."
"Don't sleep or nap during the day - it confuses you body clock and will make it harder for you to drift off in the evening."
Have A Bath
"Have a warm bath before bedtime. The core drop in temperature when you get out will help you to drift into a deep sleep."
"Be aware of what you eat. Try and have no caffeine after midday, eat regular meals and remember that carbohydrates will help you feel sleepy."
"Exercise is an excellent stress buster - but make sure you leave at least three hours between exercise and sleep, to give your body enough time to wind down."
Swtich Off (Everything)
"Reteach your brain to associate bed with sleep. This means eliminating computers, smartphones or TV's from the bedroom."