Sleep and weight loss - is there a link?

Judith Wills / 13 June 2014

Diet and wellbeing blogger Judith Wills considers whether there really is a link between weight loss and the time we sleep in till.

It has long been known that calorie restriction in mice and men has several beneficial effects resulting in longer lives.

Those who regularly eat around a third fewer calories than is deemed 'normal' are most likely to stave off heart disease and even cancer (while, of course, being slimmer as well).

Now very recent research finds that such a diet is vital in helping to prevent one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer – TNBC. Again, admittedly, this was a study in the USA conducted on mice. But mice often turn out to be much more like humans than you might imagine.

In addition, other recent studies have shown that weight gain makes standard treatments for breast cancer less effective, and those who gain weight during treatment have worse cancer outcomes.

So for anyone with breast cancer in the family may do well to start that calorie-restricted regime. It's definitely worth a go.

Something which helps you to stay slim is getting up early, apparently. This is because those who stay abed in the morning but go to bed late at night are less likely to take regular exercise, so the University of Chicago researchers believe, anyway.

Rise and shine

As one who has been getting up really early (for me) of late, I can vouch for the fact that this is not always true. I've been up, but not exactly about, by around 7am for a few weeks now, most days, as I'm trying to keep up with the gardening as well as work – with a major project due in at the end of June, I can't afford to slip back even a little bit for even one day.

The consequence of this is that I do about an hour and a half in the garden, then come in to work around 9 am. And then I sit, and sit, and sit for all the day until about 6pm, when I stagger downstairs, bum, hips and legs stiff from all the sitting, and prepare supper. (And maybe have a drink too, to remove the worst effects of the day).

So you see, some larks don't exercise. As far as I can see, one's sleeping patterns have little to do with anti-exercise. Even when I stayed in bed until 8.30 or even 9 some days I have always had to bully myself into exercise. Even when I go to bed at 10pm, or midnight, blah, blah, blah, whatever – the exercise never seems to sort itself out.

If anyone has any ideas on how one can get one's brain and body to co-ordinate a self-regulating activity plan and stick to it, without the person inside the brain and body actually having any input or capacity to refuse, please do let me know. Please.

Two PS's to blogs I've written in recent months. First, I wrote around January that I was suffering from an inexplicable urge to consume sweet foods, and I put it down somehow to having been more than usually stressed out during December. Now I read in Neuroscience Letters that when we are under stress, hormones called glucocorticoids act on taste receptors in the tongue making them require sweeter foods. So!

And I moaned that eating breakfast regularly these days (having not done so for years) does NOT help me lose weight, as is often mooted, it just makes me eat one more meal a day that I could well do without. But now there's yet more research disagreeing with me. People in the study at Bath University either ate 700 calories worth of food before 11am, or abstained – then both groups ate a normal diet the rest of the day. The group who ate the breakfast apparently burned around 440 calories worth more energy during the day than did those who fasted in the morning. 440 cals a day equates to around a pound a week lost (or not put on, depending on which way you look at it) so why doesn't it work for me?

Yet again I can't give you a food photo as I've been too busy to cook anything worth photographing – last night we ate leftover roast chicken turned into a Chinese stir fry with masses of veg – corn cobs, pakchoi, red pepper, mushrooms, beansprouts and a bit of rice (one of those packs you microwave!) It was fine, and apart from undoubtedly being too high in salt, it was relatively healthy - but proper cooking it ain't!

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