Inconsistent Sleep Patterns Cause Weight Gain
We’ve known for some time that our circadian rhythm—our inner clock—is important to our health.
But only recently have we learnt just how important.
In my patients, I’ve found that sleep patterns are nearly as important as sleep length.
Seeing the health issues of patients who work odd schedules has always provided plenty of anecdotal evidence. But in recent years, a number of scientific studies have confirmed what I’ve long suspected.
When you sleep is an extremely important component of your health. It can affect everything from your blood sugar, to your blood pressure, to your cancer risk.
And, perhaps most surprisingly, your sleep patterns can greatly affect your weight.
Few people really think about this as part of a healthy lifestyle. But it’s time for that to change.
And today, I’ll show you exactly how to change your sleep patterns to maximize your health.
Traveling, Without Even Leaving Your Bed
Here’s a problem most of us aren’t aware of.
Almost everyone suffers from something called “social jet lag.”
It’s when we have one pattern of sleep during the work week, and a completely different sleep pattern over weekends.
One researcher has compared social jet lag to traveling from Paris to New York every Friday evening, and returning every Monday morning.
Our bodies can handle jet lag now and again. But repeated every week, the ill effects start to add up.
Specifically, in a survey of 65,000 workers, those with large discrepancies between their work-week and weekend schedule had triple the risk of obesity.
That echoes similar studies which suggest obesity and diabetes are a much greater risk amongst those who work odd schedules.
And today, we finally have a good idea why.
New findings show that we don’t have a single circadian rhythm ruling our entire body.
Each organ, system, and even individual cells in our body have their own rhythm. And when the clock in our pancreas, for instance, starts to disagree with the one in our brain, all sorts of problems develop.
Using the above example, a meal eaten in the middle of the night sends systems in different directions.
The pancreas is told by food intake to release insulin during odd hours. Over time, that becomes habit. Your digestive system is raring to go at 1 am, and becomes sluggish at noon.
Meanwhile, the brain is listening to lighting cues. Your mental clock ends up disagreeing with your digestive one.
If we eat meals at midnight, our body is less efficient digesting and absorbing nutrients—and becomes more efficient for turning energy into fat.
We can see the effects in less dramatic situations as well. One study found that dieters who ate their largest meal early in the day lost 25% more weight than those who ate their largest meal late in the day.
Even some drugs are more effective—or more toxic—depending on the time of day they’re taken.
Add it all up, and it’s clear—we need to pay more attention to our daily patterns than anyone realized.
So what’s the important takeaway?
Taking Control Of Our Multiple Rhythms
Most of us only have limited control over our schedules. Between work and outside commitments, we can’t always choose when we sleep and when we wake, when we eat and when we rest.
And make no mistake—ensuring you get enough sleep is of paramount importance. If that means sleeping in on Saturday morning to catch up, you do it.
But, to as large an extent as possible, try to establish habits and patterns to help your body along. Eat at the same time every day (or close to it). Be careful with your sleep hygiene—as much as possible, try to sleep and wake near the same hour each day.
This simple change could greatly reduce your risk of all sorts diseases—and might even boost the effectiveness of any weight control efforts by 25%!
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: May 27, 2015