Understanding Sleeping and Metabolism
In a study led by Francesco S. Celi, M.D., Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the university, turning the thermostat down at night can increase metabolic activity. The study showed that prolonged exposure to mild cold, such as that typically found in climate-controlled buildings, can increase brown fat and increase metabolism, while warmer temperatures tend to suppress brown fat, just one of the ways that sleeping and metabolism are linked.
The study was published in a recent issues of the journal Diabetes and found that lowering the thermostat by just a few degrees at night leads to an expansion in the mass of brown fat tissue. This may help the body to remove glucose more efficiently and lead to a number of other potential metabolic benefits.
Brown adipose is a specific type of fat that burns calories to produce heat. This is how the body maintains its core temperature in cool environments.
The researchers studied five male volunteers, all of whom were lean and healthy. The volunteers slept at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Research Center in rooms with strictly controlled temperatures during the four month study. During the day, they all engaged in their normal daily activities.
During the first four weeks of the study, the temperature of the rooms was kept at 75 degrees. The second month, the thermostat was lowered to 66 degrees. During the third month, it was returned to 75 degrees. During the final month, the thermostat was cranked up to 81 degrees.
At the end of each four week period, the researchers tested the metabolism and insulin sensitivity of each participant. When the temperature was reduced, the volume of brown adipose tissue doubled and sensitivity to insulin improved significantly. As the temperature increased, the amount of brown adipose tissue decreased and insulin sensitivity worsened.
Although study participants were lean and healthy, the findings prove that activating brown adipose does offer some metabolic benefits, including reducing the risk of diabetes, according to Celi. The team plans to expand the research to determine whether overweight or insulin-resistant individuals might see the same benefits from sleeping in a cooler environment.
The team has previously identified communication between brown adipose and skeletal muscle during acute exposure to cold. The communication is facilitated by a hormone induced by exercise. These metabolic signals may increase the efficiency of the body at maintaining its core temperature.
Sleeping and Metabolism: Good Sleep Reduces Stress
One of the outlying aspects of poor sleeping and metabolism practices is that it contributes to stress and lethargy. When we are fatigued, it is more difficult to take part in all of the activities that our daily lives demand. This alone can lead to stress as most people work to be as productive as possible. Not only does this lack of sleep lead to an unbalanced life, but the stress can lead to metabolic issues of it own making.
The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response is the system which is responsible for maintaining our body’s reactions to stress and the fight and flight response. It is descriptive of the all encompassing network through which our body communicates and elicits physical actions in the presence of stressful external or internal factors. One thing the NEM Stress Response can not decode is whether the threat is legitimate or not, it only knows that the body is in perceived danger and reacts accordingly.
When this system is engaged, our bodies cannot burn fat. The metabolism is slowed to make sure the body has enough energy stores to last until the danger is gone. This ties into sleeping because, as was stated earlier, lack of good sleep can contribute to higher levels of stress. This aspect is just one function of the NEM Stress Response. The HPA axis, through which the large portion of stress response is handled, ends with the actions of the adrenal glands.
Adrenal glands are called upon to do a lot and when they don’t get proper rest in between increased function, they fatigue. The result of this is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, an often debilitating affliction where sufferers experience everything from chronic pain to outright exhaustion. Getting proper sleep is imperative for proper adrenal function and recovery. The added benefit that you could lost some weight by sleeping in a colder room is a very interesting discovery but the concept of sleep as a whole is a point of imperative focus.
Conclusion of Sleeping and Metabolism
See if you can take a look at your patterns of sleep and how it affects your stress levels. You may find that there is a prominent link between the two. Make a plan and be diligent in setting time aside to get your well needed and deserved shut-eye. Your body will be thankful and will give back to you with more energy, a healthier metabolism, reduced adrenal fatigue, and lower levels of stress.
Source: Diabetes, 2014
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