Tag Archives: insulin

How Poor Sleep Effects Our Health, Hormones and Weight

In this country, it is normal for us to work at least 10 hours a day, try to exercise a few hours a week and try to get by on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. We use alarm clocks, coffee, chocolate, soda, energy drinks and many other tricks to help us “push through” the fatigue and get on with our day. Does this sound like you?

What you don’t know is how exceedingly important sleep is and how not getting enough sleep can cause us to gain weight. Just one or two nights of missed or inadequate sleep are enough to make you as insulin resistant as a Type II diabetic! While adequate diet and exercise can help, your physiology will never be normal without enough sleep. At the end of the day, neglected sleep or poor sleep quality is a significant stressor to your body. It compromises your immune system, reduces your memory and makes you gain weight.

Melatonin Does Not Cause Weight Gain, Lack of Sleep Does

In addition to insulin, two other important hormones related to sleep and weight gain are melatonin and prolactin. Known as the “hormone of darkness,” melatonin is secreted in darkness, at night and tells the body it is time to sleep. Prolactin is critical to our immune systems and one of our first lines of cancer defense. Research shows that longer periods of sleep with increased melatonin production enhanced immunity. Long nights also produced higher levels of prolactin. If we get less sleep at night, more prolactin is produced during the day. And if prolactin is secreted during the day, it leads to autoimmunity and carbohydrate craving.

If you put together the imbalance between insulin, cortisol, prolactin and melatonin, you have a recipe for disaster. The biggest problem with short night sleep is that insulin will stay higher in the dark when it should be flat and cortisol falls so late it will come up normally in the morning. This is the reversal of your normal hormone rhythms. You’re supposed to wake up with high cortisol in the morning to deal with the stress of the day and a low insulin so you’re hungry. However, with reversed hormone rhythms it is easy to skip breakfast because your insulin is high and you’re not hungry. The reversal also causes melatonin and prolactin to be too high in the morning and throughout the daylight hours making it difficult to concentrate. By 3:00 in the afternoon you crave carbohydrates, get inpatient and have even more trouble concentrating.

Now do you see why getting enough sleep is so important? It’s more than just resting. It recharges your body, controls appetite, supports the immune system, balances hormones and improves concentration.

Put your Metabolism into Spring by Eating to Increase Glucagon

Glucagon is a hormone you probably haven’t heard a lot about, but it plays a major role in breaking down fat and allowing your body to have the right energy levels. Glucagon counterbalances insulin, and is also produced in the pancreas, along with insulin. While insulin has the job of helping nutrients get into cells, the job of glucagon is to release the stored nutrients to be used for energy as needed.

Glucagon promotes the release of stored glucose from the liver and the release of free fatty acids from your fat store. Therefore, this hormone actually breaks down fat. Since glucagon counterbalances insulin, they aren’t present at the same time. The pancreas either is releasing insulin in response to sugar or releasing glucagon in response to protein foods. However, neither is released when nonstarchy vegetables and fats are consumed. The ratio between insulin and glucagon determines whether food is used as building materials and fuel or stored as fat. A higher proportion of glucagon means that more food is used as building material or fuel.

A high carbohydrate diet will cause people to overproduce insulin and not enough glucagon. You can heal your metabolism and encourage glucagon to burn fat by balancing your insulin. When you eat natural fats and adequate amounts of protein, eliminate refined carbohydrates and exercise, you naturally increase your levels of glucagon, which encourages your body to use nutrients as fuel and building blocks for muscle and other important tissues in your body and to not store them as fat.

The following factors increase glucagon:

  • Diet low in sugar and low blood sugar
  • Exercise
  • Increased blood amino acid levels (eating protein)
  • Protein foods

The following factors decrease glucagon:

  • Free fatty acids in the blood (from too much sugar)
  • Frequent meals
  • High blood sugar
  • Insulin
  • Refined carbohydrates in diet
  • Sedentary lifestyle