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Sleep: The Foundation of Health

Oxygen, water, food, and sleep…. All things humans need to survive. Yet one in three Americans report not getting adequate sleep, defined as at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

Written By

Cara Adams, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Expert


Sleep, combined with diet and exercise, is essential to being healthy. Unfortunately, society tends to perceive sleep as unproductive time.

Today we face many incentives for sleeping as little as possible.

Responding to a work email late at night shows that you are “prioritizing work”… And showing up to work earlier than necessary in the morning demonstrates that you are more committed than your colleagues, right? What about the determination you are overcome by at 10PM to finish your favorite Netflix series…but there’s only 2 episodes left!

The truth is…sacrificing sleep over time can have consequences for our health. Studies confirm that lack of sleep can negatively affect diet, weight, and even mental and physical performance.

Here’s how lack of sleep can impact diet and weight:

Lack of sleep leads to….

Increased time and opportunities for eating. Those who sleep 6 hours or less per night tend to spend more time snacking and grazing, with an increased risk of consuming 500 or more extra calories per day just from snack foods!

Increased psychological distress. Sleep, mood, and diet are all related. Those who experience daytime sleepiness or bad moods due to fatigue are more likely to crave high-sugar, high-fat foods to help with energy levels and improve negative mood.

Increased sensitivity to food reward. Inadequate sleep increases activation of pleasure centers of the brain, making the brain more sensitive to food sights and smells which can make the taste of food even more rewarding.

Altered hormone regulation. Leptin (the hormone that tells our body when we are full) decreases when we don’t get enough sleep and ghrelin (the hormone that tells our body when we are hungry) increases when we are sleep deprived… the perfect recipe that leads to overeating! Lastly, stress and lack of sleep cause a rise in our body’s cortisol levels, which can lead to weight gain over time.

Are you getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night? Follow these 10 sleep commandments to help you optimize your sleep.

  1. Maintain a regular schedule
  2. Exercise regularly but not too late at night
  3. Get light during the day and avoid light especially from phone, TV, and computer screens late at night
  4. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable
  5. Do not go to bed too hungry or too full
  6. Do not drink excessive liquids in the evening
  7. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol at night
  8. Do not go to bed angry, worried, or upset
  9. Get rid of the clock (don’t keep checking your phone throughout the night, just wait for your alarm to go off!)
  10. Avoid napping too long or too late during the day



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