How Obesity and Sleep Debt Are Linked

A study I posted several months ago tied one's lack of sleep and obesity to his or her leptin levels. Also, the lack of sleep raises one's levels of grehlin, a chemical that spurs the urge to eat. Meaning when you're more alert, you probably aren't so hungry.

Yale researchers have traced another link to sleep debt and obesity to the hypocretin/orexin cells in the hypothalamus region of the brain that are easily excited and sensitive to stress. As neurons become over-activated by stressors in our daily lives, scientists believe that activity could be sustained for longer periods, triggering insomnia and overeating.

These hypecretin/orexin neurons were studied in mice, using electrophysiology and electron microscopy. Interestingly, scientists discovered a group of inputs on those neurons in which excitatory nerve junctions outnumbered inhibitors by a factor of 10. (Stressors to the body like fasting also excite neurons.) Although this unique imbalance relates to the body's arousal and alertness, scientists suspect it could be an underlying cause of insomnia and obesity.

And, even worse, the more stress one experiences, the lower the threshold becomes for exciting these hypocretin neurons. That's why researchers believe cutting back on stress could be far more beneficial to those suffering from obesity or insomnia than taking a toxic drug.

Because stress is a given in the jam-packed lives we lead, however, your best bet is to face it head on. Fortunately, there are many tools on my Web site to get you started in the right direction. A few suggestions that will definitely do the trick:

  • Learn the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a energy psychology technique I use daily in my practice.
  • Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible.
  • Turn off the TV and read something spiritual to help you relax.
  • Avoid bedtime snacks, particularly grains and sugars.

For more ways to improve your sleep, an essential component of optimizing your health, I strongly urge you to review my free guide.

Cell Metabolism, April 2005, Volume 1, Issue 4: 279-286

EurekAlert April 12, 2005

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