Cut down on sugar for a good sleep

We all know that sugar is bad for our waistlines and that the more we eat and drink it, the more pounds we’ll pile on. Research from Queen Mary University in London recently pointed out that cutting the sugar content in sweet drinks by 40 per cent over the next couple of years would prevent a million cases of obesity in the UK.

But it isn’t just our weight that sugar affects, as scientists and Silentnight beds expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan have stressed the negative impact sugar has on our night’s sleep.

Dr Anna Weighall from the University of Leeds recently worked with Silentnight on an in-depth study, which found a correlation between how much shut eye we get and how much we crave sugar. Research documented in Sleep Disorders: Treatment & Care brought to light that high calorie diets in young people leads to a shorter sleep.

Leptin is a hormone that reduces hunger and it peaks during sleep, meaning it decreases with lack of sleep. With leptin keeping hunger pangs at bay, another hormone called ghrelin increases food cravings and is more present when you’re struggling to sleep,

“With talk of a ‘sugar tax’ we are all increasingly aware of the negative effects of sugar on the nation’s health, especially in relation to weight gain and obesity.” Dr Weighall explained.

“However, scientists have also shown that our diet can be important for sleep too. There is evidence that both adults and children who eat high calorie diets are more likely to sleep less.”

Dr Ramlakhan is adamant that sugar should be avoided near bed time, especially for sensitive sleepers.

“What is interesting from the research is that we see how quite quickly the relationship between sugar and sleep can become a negative cycle – with what we put into the body disrupting our sleep patterns, we are then kept awake and our body begins to crave all the things which keep us awake,” she added.

“Sugar can cause more restlessness and hyperactivity, especially if you’re a sensitive sleeper so best to minimize it. I would encourage people to break the cycle with a low sugar or better still sugar free drink before bed. If you have a hot drink before you go to sleep, it best to make it with almond milk which is high in tryptophan which is proven to improve sleep.”

Daydreaming = obesity, according to new research

If you find yourself easily distracted you need be careful – scientists have found that daydreaming could increase a person’s risk of obesity.

Apparently, those who get lost in their thoughts fail to recognize how much they’ve eaten, potentially resulting in them tucking into more food than they should.

Data on 38 children aged eight to 13, collected by the ‘Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute – Rockland Sample’, was analysed, with five of the children obese and six overweight. They were weighed and information about their eating habits was gathered, as well as brain scans being performed.

Three areas of the brain were identified, associated to eating habits and weight. The inferior parietal lobe is linked to inhibition and is capable of overriding an automatic response, like eating. The frontal pole is linked to impulsive behaviour, while the nucleus accumbens is focuses on the reward.

Looking at children who ate the most, the experiment found that the part of the brain which is linked to being impulsive was more important than the sector associated with inhibition. In contrast, kids who behaved in a way that kept them from food saw their area of the brain associated with inhibition play a stronger role than the impulsive side.

Researchers think the way to tackle this is to encourage children to practice mindfulness from a young age, with study co-author Dr Ronald Cowan, of Vanderbilt University, adding: “We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.”

Study co-author, Dr Dr Kevin Niswender, added: “Adults, and especially children, are primed towards eating more. This is great from an evolutionary perspective – they need food to grow and survive.

“But in today’s world, full of readily available, highly advertised, energy dense foods, it is putting children at risk of obesity.”

The study was published in the journal Heliyon.