This week we will be changing gears a little bit and discuss something most of us probably will admit we don’t get enough of….sleep. Most of us have probably heard that lack of sleep will cause us to be emotionally moody, or that it can cause us to gain weight. However, that is not the true point behind this week’s topic. We will be explaining what our bodies go through when we are sleep deprived, and why we should do our best to get a great night’s sleep when possible.

Sleep deprivations effect our body’s hormones, specifically insulin, androgens, growth hormone, and cortisol (the stress hormone). Let’s break down the importance of each of these hormones and how sleep can manipulate them.

Insulin is an important hormone for our bodies because it allows our cells to pick up glucose. It is a vital component that helps regulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Research has shown that insulin levels do not seem to be affected by sleep deprivation; however, it does show that there is a decrease in insulin sensitivity in fat cells and the liver. This reduced sensitivity can occur very quickly and can actually increase your risk of developing diabetes. A loss of only 90 minutes of sleep over a few weeks has shown to decrease insulin sensitivity. Fortunately, once proper sleep is reintroduced the insulin sensitivities quickly normalize.

The second hormone of importance is androgens, such as testosterone. Testosterone, similar to insulin, is quickly affected by sleep deprivation. One study from JAMA in 2011 showed that getting up to three fewer hours of sleep for five days can reduce testosterone by over 10% and other studies suggest even higher reductions. Again, like insulin, testosterone can reduce quickly, but can normalize once sleep is restored.

Growth hormone is a hormone that is not affected by sleep deprivation as much as others. Studies have shown that a large amount of growth hormone is released shortly after we sleep. Our bodies adjust and compensate the secretion of growth hormone even if our sleep cycle is altered or reduced. Having a lack of sleep does not reduce the overall secretion of growth hormone, but it does alter the secretion cycle.

Last is cortisol, which helps to mediate the waking process. During the morning (when you wake), the cortisol levels are elevated, and suppressed during the evening (allowing you to fall asleep). When we become sleep deprived these levels become deregulated and increased, creating an all-day exposure. Therefore, it is important to prevent sleep deprivation to avoid this altered regulation of cortisol.

Sleep can have profound effects on hormones, and this should give us a big wake up call, no pun intended, of the importance sleep has and how quickly it can affect our bodies. Next week we will go into this topic a little deeper and provide some useful tips to help regulate your sleep.

If you have any questions about this topic or any other previous health topic visit or call us at 843-654-9330.

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