Improving Your Sleep May Be Key for Preventing and Treating Metabolic Disorders

 

By Dr. Mercola

A majority of Americans are not getting enough sleep, and modern technology is in large part to blame. According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll,1 53 percent of respondents who turn electronics off while sleeping rate their sleep as excellent, compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.

Even children are becoming sleep deprived. The poll shows that 58 percent of teens aged 15-17 get only seven hours of sleep or less per night. Between 7 and 8 hours may be optimal for the average adult, but children are known to need more sleep than adults.

If your child is overweight and/or exhausted much of the time, chances are high that poor sleep patterns—perhaps resulting from too many light-emitting gadgets—are at play.

The exposure to excessive amounts of light at night, courtesy of electric light bulbs and electronic gadgets of all kinds, makes it exceedingly difficult for your body and brain to wind down for sleep. And this lack of sleep, in turn, can have far ranging health consequences, regardless of your age.  read more..............


To Successfully Lose Weight, You May Need to Sleep More

 

A number of studies have linked poor sleep and/or sleep deprivation with a higher risk of obesity and difficulty in losing weight. A recent article by Timesleader.com7 also discusses the findings from a University of Chicago study, which found that people who slept well lost more fat when dieting, while sleep deprived participants lost more muscle.

On average, both groups lost about the same amount of weight, but clearly, losing fat rather than muscle is definitely to be preferred! The article also notes that:

"[O]ne study found that those who slept five hours per night were 73 percent more likely to become obese than those who spent nine hours with their favorite pillow – I'll repeat: 73 percent!

The reason for this hasn't been pinpointed yet, but some say that lack of sleep lowers the levels of the hormone leptin, which reduces hunger. There's another link between sleep deprivation and weight: diabetes.

The underlying problem with type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, in which the body does not make proper use of this sugar-processing hormone. And go figure, when you're sleep deprived, your body almost immediately develops conditions that resemble diabetes.

A study of people in their late 20s and early 30s who slept fewer than six and a half hours per night showed they essentially had the insulin sensitivity of someone over 60."

The Persistent Link Between Poor Sleep and Insulin Resistance

 

Impaired insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, occurs when your body cannot use insulin properly, allowing your blood sugar levels to get too high. The same applies to leptin, the hormone that tells your brain there is no need for more food. Both insulin and leptin resistance are precursors to type 2 diabetes.

They're also risk factors in many other chronic diseases. In fact, controlling your insulin/leptin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.

The increase in insulin-related diseases we're now seeing is largely due to lack of exercise combined with the excessive consumption of refined fructose and processed carbohydrates… but it also appears that lack of sleep plays an important part in the equation.

Besides deteriorating your insulin and leptin sensitivity, sleep deprivation also increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.8 This too can easily result in overeating and/or indulging in the wrong foods. Too little sleep also impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory, immune system, heart and metabolism, and much more.

By altering the balance of all of these various hormones, lack of sleep can lead to a wide array of health problems, from accelerated aging and earlier onset of Alzheimer's,9 to depression, and increased risk for cancer. In fact, tumors have been shown to grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions.

 

To Sleep Better, Skip the Drugs and Treat Yourself to Bright Daylight During the Day


If you or your child has trouble sleeping, how can you most effectively reverse that trend? For starters, please do NOT make the mistake of turning to sleeping pills—prescription or otherwise. Unfortunately, this is what many end up doing. According to one 2007 study, more than 80 percent of children's doctor visits for sleep problems included a prescription for a sleep drug! Most prescribed for kids' sleep troubles were antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and sleeping pills like Ambien and Sonata.

You certainly do not need to go to medical school to understand that using drugs to help kids sleep is not their best option, as it in no way, shape or form addresses the underlying cause of poor sleep patterns and instead exposes kids to potentially serious medication side effects. The same goes for adults. Instead, I strongly recommend addressing truly foundational issues—such as maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night—first. In a recent interview, researcher Dan Pardi revealed why this is so critical for sleep and overall health.

 

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6 Causes of Burnout, and How to Avoid Them

 

 
Bryan Mullennix/Getty Images

A fog of burnout surrounds you: You’re perpetually exhausted, annoyed, and feeling unaccomplished and unappreciated. Everything in you wants to quit your job. But is that the best choice? Ultimately only you can know what is right in your situation. But there is research that can help you determine whether you can salvage your current job or whether the mismatch between you and your current position is so great that you need to look for a new one.

 

Various models help to explain and predict burnout, which is now an official medical diagnosis, according to the World Health Organization. One, called the Areas of Worklife model (drawn from research by Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter of the University of California at Berkeley and Acadia University, respectively) identifies six areas where you could experience imbalances that lead to burnout. As a time management coach, I’ve seen that some individuals can make positive shifts in one or more of these areas and then happily stay in their current position while others discover that the mismatch is still too great, and decide that it’s time to move on.

 

Here are the six areas that can lead to burnout and how you can attempt to remedy each one.

 

1. Workload.

When you have a workload that matches your capacity, you can effectively get your work done, have opportunities for rest and recovery, and find time for professional growth and development. When you chronically feel overloaded, these opportunities to restore balance don’t exist.

To address the stress of your workload, assess how well you’re doing in these key areas: planning your workload, prioritizing your work, delegating tasks, saying no, and letting go of perfectionism. If you haven’t been doing one or more of these things, try to make progress in these time management skill areas and then see how you feel. For many individuals, especially those who have a bent toward people pleasing, some proactive effort on reducing their workload can significantly reduce feelings of burnout and provide space to rest.

 

2. Perceived lack of control.

Feeling like you lack autonomy, access to resources, and a say in decisions that impact your professional life can take a toll on your well-being. If you find yourself feeling out of control, step back and ask yourself, “What exactly is causing me to feel this way?” For instance, does your boss contact you at all hours of the day and night, and make you feel like you need to always be on call? Are the priorities within your workplace constantly shifting so you can never get ahead? Or do you simply not have enough predictability in terms of your physical or people resources to effectively perform your job?

Then ask yourself what you can do to shift this situation. Is it possible to discuss the issue with your boss to establish better boundaries and not respond to messages 24/7? Could you come to an agreement that certain priorities will remain constant? Or could you have more resources if you communicated about what you needed? Once you’ve considered these areas, you can then see what you can do to influence your environment versus what won’t change no matter what you say or do.

 

3. Reward.

If the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for your job don’t match the amount of effort and time you put in to them, then you’re likely to feel like the investment is not worth the payoff.

In these instances, you want to look within and determine exactly what you would need to feel properly appreciated. For example, perhaps you need to ask for a raise or promotion. Maybe you need more positive feedback and face time with your boss. Or perhaps you need to take advantage of the rewards you’ve already accrued, such as taking the comp time that you earned during a particularly busy time at the office. Experiment to see which rewards would make what you’re doing worth it to you and whether there is the opportunity to receive more of those rewards within your current work environment.

 

4. Community.

Who do you work with or around? How supportive and trusting are those relationships? In many cases you can’t choose your colleagues and clients, but you can improve the dynamic. It could be as simple as taking the time to ask others how their day is going — and really listening. Or sending an email to someone to let them know you appreciated their presentation. Or choosing to communicate something difficult in a respectful, nonjudgmental way. Burnout can be contagious, so to elevate your individual engagement, you must shift the morale of the group. If you’ve found that once you’ve done all you can, others can’t improve or don’t want improved relationships, then you may want to consider a job change.

 

5. Fairness.

Think about whether you believe that you receive fair and equitable treatment. For example, do you get acknowledged for your contributions or do other individuals get praised and your work goes unnoticed? Does someone else get regular deadline extensions or access to additional resources when you don’t?

 

If you feel that a lack of fairness exacerbates your burnout, start by speaking up. Sometimes individuals are unaware of their biases or won’t take action until you ask for what you want. You can request to be mentioned as a contributor, to give part of a presentation, or for additional time and resources. And if you still find that the response seems inequitable, you can consider bringing that up in a polite way: “I noticed that the Chicago team got an additional week to work on their project that was originally due on the same date as ours. Can you help me understand why that’s not possible for our team as well?”

 

6. Values mismatch.

If you highly value something that your company does not, your motivation to work hard and persevere can significantly drop. Ideals and motivations tend to be deeply ingrained in individuals and organizations. When you’re assessing this element of burnout, you need to think carefully about how important it is to you to match your values with those of the organization.

 

Also consider whether the leaders in your company have shifted their values. Look around you and ask yourself: How does my boss, my team, and my organization make decisions and invest resources? Do I feel good about those underlying motivations? Do they seem open to change? If you have strongly held values and those with influence in your organization differ from yours, you may need to look for a more congruent opportunity.

 

Burnout isn’t simply about being tired. It’s a multifaceted issue that requires a multifaceted solution. Before you quit, really think through what exactly is contributing to your burnout and attempt to make changes. If you find that despite your best efforts, little has changed, then see if it makes sense to stay or if it’s time to leave.


Download Interview Transcript


Unfortunately, most people in Western societies spend the larger portion of each day indoors, which essentially puts you in a state of "light deficiency." Meanwhile, most people expose themselves to too much light in the evening, at a time when the natural rhythm calls for light to fade. Research shows that exposure to bright room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin production in 99 percent of individuals. This can effectively rob you of sleep by masking sleepiness, as this hormone influences what time of day or night your body thinks it is—regardless of what time the clock displays.

To correct the situation and return your body to a normal rhythm of waking and sleeping, Pardi recommends getting at least 30-60 minutes of bright outdoor light exposure during daylight hours. This will help "anchor" your biological rhythm. Then, in the evening, you'll want to dim environmental lights and avoid the blue light wavelength to prevent the suppression of melatonin, as this will make it difficult to fall asleep. To do this, you can use blue-blocking light bulbs, dim your lights with dimmer switches and turn off unneeded lights, and if using a computer, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux10 (Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect.)


Sleeping Well Is Part of a Healthy Lifestyle Plan

 

There's compelling research indicating that sleeping too little may increase your insulin and leptin resistance, thereby raising your risk of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. To address your sleep problems, I recommend beginning by realigning your circadian rhythms to the natural rhythm of daylight and nightfall. Without this synchronization, aspects of your waking/sleeping system will be working at the wrong time, making it difficult to sleep at night, while increasing daytime sleepiness. Again, the three factors to keep in mind are as follows:

  • Get daylight exposure, ideally around solar noon, for at least half an hour or more each day
  • In the evening, dim environmental lights and avoid the blue light wavelength
  • When it's time to go to sleep, make sure your bedroom is dark. I recommend installing blackout shades for this purpose, or use a sleep mask to avoid disrupting your melatonin production 

Besides maintaining a natural circadian rhythm, there are a number of additional ways to help improve your sleep if you're still having trouble. For a comprehensive sleep guide, please see my article "33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep." Here are 10 often-overlooked factors that might be interfering with your sleep. My previous interview with Dr. Rubin Naiman also delves into some of the most common causes of insomnia, and how to address them.

For more inspiration: