Monday, July 9, 2012

Are Your Sleep Patterns Making You Gain Weight?

Scientists are beginning to pinpoint a deep connection between irregular sleep patterns and serious health risks, particularly in the form of weight gain. Find out how you can tune into your own natural body clock to slim down, maintain good health, and feel more energized overall

Go with Your Internal Body Clock

It is so important for us to be true to our natural body clock—also referred to as circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the (approximately) 24-hour natural cycles that govern the body, regulating appetite, sleep, and mood. Chinese medicine has always believed that these cycles are controlled largely by light, or the cycles of the sun. Energy should be exerted during the day, while the nighttime is meant for rest and recuperation. Scientific research has proven that the body does indeed seem to have a natural rhythm that should be followed for optimal health.

Do You Have “Social Jet Lag”?

A recent study by European researchers has shown that when we have a hard time waking up at an imposed time—at the sound of our weekday alarm clock, for example—it means that our circadian rhythms are not in alignment with our daily schedules. This often occurs because many of us have two different sleep schedules—an early work schedule Monday through Friday and a late-to-bed, late-to-rise social schedule during the weekend. Researchers from University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology have even coined the term “social jet lag” to describe these mismatched sleep schedules.

In this recent European study, 65,000 adults were surveyed, and those who were living with two different sleep schedules were three times more likely to become overweight—a serious difference! Moreover, as the differences between the two schedules became greater—for example, the greater 7-hour schedule discrepancy of waking at 6am on weekdays and 1pm on weekends versus the less significant 4-hour discrepancy of 6am weekdays and 10am weekends—the overall BMI (or body mass index) of individuals rose. Over a longer period of time, risks for cancer and diabetes increase, too.

You’re probably wondering“how does sleeping in on Saturday make me gain weight?” When we live with such disparate sleep schedules, we are living in disharmony with the natural rhythms. On a deep cellular level, the metabolic functions are interrupted. We end up doing activities that our bodies aren’t prepared for—like eating when our bodies aren’t able to digest food properly, negatively affecting how food is incorporated into our body’s fat content and increasing our risk of obesity.

Stay in Synch and Sleep Well

How do we move toward living in synch with our natural circadian rhythms? Use these tips to help you get on your body’s natural schedule and improve sleep.

1. Practice getting on schedule. Parents know kids function best on a regular schedule for eating and sleeping, so it should be no surprise that it is the same for us adults! Choose one activity that you will do at the same time every day, such as eating breakfast at 7:00am, meditating at noon, exercising at 6:30pm, or getting into bed at 10:00pm. If you are up to it, choose two or more activities to do at the same time every day, preferably one cognitive and one physical, and your body will get even more practiced at maintaining rhythm and stability, building a more solid foundation for your weight and metabolic function. When you are exercising your mind or body at the same time every day, your performance rate and brain power will increase. And by exercising at the same time each day, you can establish a pattern, strengthening your performance at that particular time of day.

2. Sleep well. Sleep deficits will affect your natural clock, so make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. It helps to go to bed roughly the same time every night. If you are interested in relieving insomnia, headaches, and other conditions with acupressure, take a look at my new book Secrets of Longevity Acupressure Healing, now available on Kindle.

3. Chart the peaks and valleys. You can find the times when you feel a performance high or low by charting them. Log your energies, activities, and feelings every hour for a week and you’ll see a trend. Try to work on challenging or unappealing projects at your peaks and you’ll find that they come together with much less effort!

4. Go for slow and steady progress. When you are making changes to your lifestyle, make sure to make small changes regularly. Drastic changes to your life don’t work overnight. Working slowly but surely will help you feel a solid difference in all areas of your life.

I hope that you will enjoy the health benefits that come from synchronizing your health!

You can find more ways to live a long and healthy life in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. In addition, The Natural Health Dictionary makes a great companion to your quest for longevity. It is a comprehensive guide that answers all your questions about natural remedies, healing herbs, longevity foods, vitamins, and supplements.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
—Dr. Mao

(Article courtesy of

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