It's easy to make sleep a low
priority during the year, and
even easier at the holidays,
when schedules get stretched to
the limit by parties, shopping,
cooking, travel and the more
mundane end-of-year activities,
from submitting health insurance
reports to filling out
Yet just an hour less sleep
per night can wreak havoc, as a
2000 study by University of
Chicago researchers shows. Eve
Van Cauter and her colleagues
deprived healthy young adults of
just an hour a night of sleep.
In six days, their hunger
increased and blood-sugar levels
soared, putting them in a
pre-diabetic state that
resembled that of people decades
older. The effects were reversed
with a return to normal sleep.
Other studies show that
missing sleep cuts leptin
levels, a hormone that controls
satiety and signals the brain
that more food is not needed.
"When leptin levels are low,"
Van Cauter says, "it tells the
brain that we need more
calories, and hunger is
stimulated." That's why skipping
sleep "is highly likely to
promote hunger and overeating,"
If you can't manage to fit in
more sleep, at least try to be a
little more physically active.
Here's why: Exercise reduces the
effects of sleep deprivation on
insulin resistance -- a key step
toward developing Type 2
diabetes. Being more active also
helps improve sleep quality.