It’s hard to imagine that one of anything—be it a vanilla cupcake, a refreshing soda or a juicy, bacon cheeseburger —could really impact your health. But then again most things aren’t sleep, which is arguably one of, if not thee, most important parts of overall wellness. After all, there is little else that can influence everything from brain function and emotional well-being, to physical health and disease prevention.
So what does that mean for all of us night owls? Can just one sleepless night really impact your health? Actually, yes, it can. According to a new study, just one night with no shuteye may tip your body’s metabolism toward storing fat, while depleting muscle—say it isn’t so!
Here’s what the science says:
For this new study, experts examined fat and muscle tissue in 15 young, healthy men to see how a lack of sleep impacts individuals on a molecular level. By looking at their tissue under two different circumstances—after a night of quality sleep (8 hours) vs. a night with no sleep—they noticed a difference in both genetic activity and protein levels.
Specifically, researchers found that genes related to fat storage were activated, while muscular tissue was deactivated. As you could probably guess, this combination isn’t a good one, leading to fat accumulation and muscle breakdown.
Now before you make plans to be in bed by 6 p.m. tonight, there are a few important points to remember:
· In this study, researchers compared 2 extreme circumstances—ideal sleep (8+ hours) and no sleep—which isn’t the case for most of us. Often times, we fall somewhere in the middle.
· Experts emphasize that this study was focused on one night; it did not track the long-term effects of chronic sleep loss (which is the situation most of us are in).
Get serious about snoozing:
While we all have the best intentions when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep—after all, who doesn’t want to feel well rested?—most of us fall short. Somehow, someway, our sleep time seems to get cut shorter and shorter. Maybe it’s work. Maybe it’s your snoring bed partner. Or maybe it’s your adorable bundle of joy. Whatever the cause of your sleep struggles, it’s time that we renew our commitment to getting enough sleep (your health depends on it). Keep these effective tips in mind:
· Go to bed at the same time every – single – night (yes, even on the weekends)
· Avoid naps longer than 30 minutes, especially late in the day
· Keep a diary nearby so you can write down important tasks or notes you don’t want to forget
· Listen to calm music before bed as it helps to regulate your nervous system, relax your muscles and lower your blood pressure
· Make sure you have the temperature set to a snuggle-friendly degree (right around 68)
· Talk with your primary care provider about any underlying health issues that may influence your ability to sleep soundly (like sleep apnea), or any health conditions that may spur on chronic fatigue (like hypothyroidism).