Thursday October 21, 2021

‘Healthy sleep habits help reduce weight, promote health’

September 26, 2021

Islamabad: Unhealthy sleep patterns are becoming a common problem in the Pakistani society; in fact, they have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sleeping less than seven hours during the night is associated with medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and stroke. Moreover, increased wakefulness promotes food intake episodes and energy imbalances while regulating one’s sleep, on the contrary, is an excellent tactic to reduce excess weight.

Consultant nutritionist and head of the Clinical Nutrition Department at Shifa International Hospital, Dr. Rezzan Khan, shared these tips with ‘The News’ during an exclusive interaction. “The disturbance of routines due to Covid-19 has led many people to stay up late at night, resulting in sleep deficit. This is a now a routine practice among many individuals,” Dr. Rezzan pointed out.

According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, 7-9 hours of sleep per day are recommended for most adults and seniors for optimal health. Scientific studies reveal that adults, adolescents, and children often do not get the recommended amount of sleep for their age.

“Your body produces certain important hormones while you are asleep and lowers others that are harmful. Reduced sleep may disrupt appetitive hormone regulation, specifically increasing ghrelin and decreasing leptin. Thereby, it influences how much you eat and creates cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, all of which leads to an increase in weight. Basically, regulating your sleep is an excellent tactic to reduce excess weight,” Dr. Rezzan guided.

Increased wakefulness also promotes food intake episodes and energy imbalances. “Remember, not only you do need to sleep the required number of hours, but you also need to sleep at the right time. Specifically, your body repairs itself between 10 pm to 6 am. Physical repair such as healing and repairing of your heart and blood vessels takes place between 10 pm and 2 am, while psychological repair takes place between 2 am and 6 am—this is when toxins are removed from the brain, and your day’s experiences are ‘stored’ into long-term. A disrupted sleep pattern causes the stress hormone cortisol to elevate, and this disrupts the regenerative processes,” said Dr. Rezzan, also the Islamabad Chapter In-charge of the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society.

Obstructive sleep apnea (a sleep disorder) is associated with hypertension, stroke, myocardial infarction, and diabetes, while insomnia (another type of sleep disorder) causes patients to overconsume food via night eating, and this has been associated with metabolic disorders and reduced planned physical activity. It literally makes you lazy.

Promoting healthy sleep at night often starts by encouraging healthy eating and exercise behaviour during the day. “As a nutrition expert, I help patients focus on planned meals/snacks and hydration throughout the day while avoiding excessive liquids in the evening. I recommend that my patients avoid going to bed hungry or thirsty. Furthermore, making additional lifestyle changes such as cutting back on caffeinated products and avoiding alcohol can also improve the quality of your sleep,” Dr. Rezzan stated.

The nutritionist emphasized the need to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. “If it takes a long time to fall asleep, or it is difficult to wake up on time, a sleep schedule that you can commit to could be helpful. Once you find the right amount of sleep that works for you, stick to it. Try to keep your bedtime and morning wake up time consistent, even on the weekends and during vacation. This means that you do not change your sleep time on days off. Keeping a regular schedule will help align your body clock with your sleep pattern,” she recommended.

Referring to the common myth that one can adapt to chronically restricted sleep, Dr. Rezzan said, there is no evidence that the body functionally adapts to sleep deprivation. “Instead, you will be disrupting the regenerative functions and will pay for ‘shortchanging’ yourself via degraded health, a weakened immune system, and less effective mental functioning. Proper sleep habits are beneficial for overall physical, metabolic, and mental health,” she concluded.