sleep workplace wellness

More Incentives to Connect Better Sleep with Improved Eating Habits

Yesterday we noted various ways in which employees might address obesity concerns as part of a well-run workplace wellness program. Today we further explore one of the factors: Sleep.

As reported, the Washington Post outlines several “obstacles to healthy eating,” which include understanding “why you’re still hungry.” One was that “you aren’t sleeping enough.”

Indeed, a 2015 study in the Sleep Medicine Journal looks at the role sleep may play in healthy eating. It’s titled “Human REM sleep: influence on feeding behaviour, with clinical implications.”

It begins: “Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep shares many underlying mechanisms with wakefulness, to a much greater extent than does non-REM, especially those relating to feeding behaviours, appetite, curiosity, exploratory (locomotor) activities, as well as aspects of emotions, particularly ‘fear extinction’.”

As the Washington Post notes: “Chronically skimping on sleep can lead to increased hunger and carbohydrate cravings, possibly because of the loss of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.”

Indeed, the Sleep Medicine study suggests “that the loss of our final REM sleep cycle of the night may lead to a bigger appetite.”

Specifically, the study states important findings about the connections between good sleep and eating:

  • “Our nocturnal sleep typically develops into a physiological fast, especially during fREMP, which is also an appetite suppressant
  • “REM may have ‘anti-obesity’ properties, and that the loss of fREMP may well enhance appetite and contribute to weight gain (‘overeating’) in habitually short sleepers”
  • “As we also select foods for their hedonic (emotional) values, REM may be integral to developing food preferences and dislikes
  • “REM seems to have wider influences in regulating energy balance in terms of exercise ‘substitution’ and energy (body heat) retention.

In fact, this study works well with another finding we recently reported from MedPage Today“Those who extended sleep greatly reduced intake of fats, carbohydrates, and free sugars compared with habitually short sleepers, [researchers] wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

The group wrote: “Sleep is increasingly recognized as a potential modifiable risk factor that may be involved in the complex etiology of obesity and cardiometabolic diseases and is becoming an area of increasing public health concern.”

These works contribute reasons why — given the financial costs from diabetes and other chronic diseases — the incentives for a workplace wellness program to help advance proper sleeping habits appear strong.