I need more sleep.

I stay up too late and fall into bed beyond my exhaustion limits. Mental worry wakes me up far too early, but I am so groggy I can barely function. And then I’m dragging by mid afternoon. I need a nap, but if I take one, I’ll stay up even later than night. It’s a vicious circle.

Yesterday I went to my amazing and wonderful psychiatrist and she handed me a sheet that mentioned the connection between sleep deprivation and accumulation of belly fat. WHAT? My lack of sleep is making me fat? Right now, when I am witnessing an expansion of my girth? Oh dear.

There are many studies that link obesity and sleep deprivation (never a good thing) but I’d not heard that the link was specific to abdominal fat. So I headed over to Google Scholar to read the research on this topic. Sure enough, there are loads of peer-reviewed articles (the only kind my physician husband trusts!) that say abdominal adipose tissue (belly fat) is higher in those with poor sleep patterns.

Oh dear.

Why does it happen?

The reason is not directly related to sleep, of course. The added pounds creep on when we feel tired and EAT (mostly carbs) to temporarily boost our energy, thus adding calories, etc., etc.,  etc. A 2001 study conducted with minorities (African Americans and Latinos) showed that fewer hours of sleep increased the craving for sweets and saturated fats.

Worse, abdominal obesity (what an awful phrase!) correlates to psychiatric conditions in women in a study conducted in tandem with men, who showed no such correlation.

The International Journal of Obesity (can you believe there is a journal by that name!) reported in 2008 that women who sleep fewer than five hours a night have a higher BMI than those who sleep seven to eight hours a night, even after adjusting for sleep apnea, insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

So even if it’s not abdominal fat, lack of sleep is partners with an increase in cellulite. Ugh. The truth is that exercise helps all of it…makes you more sleepy so you get to bed earlier…tones up the underlying muscles and wards off depression while it increases focus. Not only that, but as we age (!) our muscle strength declines unless we do something to stop it … like EXERCISE!

That’s not all there is to it, though. Eating right is essential, regardless of our sleep patterns. Most people don’t lose weight with exercise alone unless they have been very sedentary for a long time. Or if they change their diet along with increasing their activity level.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve about moving more and keeping track of my sleep. More later…but in the meantime, do YOU get that optimal target of  7-8 hours per night? Or not.?