Sleep... A Key to Weight Control

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Sleep... A Key to Weight Control

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Obesity is a growing concern in the United States and around the world. It affects many people, but most frightening is the incredible increase in childhood obesity.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show that 80 percent of children who were obese from ages 10 to 15 remained so at age 25. In addition, the obesity rate for 12-to 19-year-olds has more than tripled in the past 30 years to 17.6 percent ( Similar statistics are found in other countries. In Scotland, for instance, 20 percent of primary school children are overweight (

Staying fit and trim requires a combination of positive habits, including moderate daily exercise, eating a variety of nutritious, whole foods and steering clear of drugs, cigarettes and other substances that are habit-forming and detrimental to one's health.

It goes without saying that learning good health habits at an early age provides the basis for lifelong well-being, while wrong habits can be difficult to break as time goes by. But would you believe that one of the crucial components to staying fit and trim appears to be one that takes the least effort—sleep?

Snooze and lose

Many young people cut themselves short of sleep. Granted, it's hard to be a young person and get to bed early every night. Our friends, our entertainment and our school all need our attention. Sleep can seem like an unimportant, unproductive waste of time. Why sleep when we can be awake, doing something?

It turns out, sleep isn't so unproductive after all. Our bodies repair themselves and rejuvenate cells and body systems all night in a series of sleep cycles. In fact, according to a 1999 study reported in The Lancet, sleep debt impairs carbohydrate metabolism and endocrine function, potentially leading to diabetes (Vol. 354, Issue 9188, Oct. 23, 1999, pp. 1435-1439).

In her book Sleep Away the Pounds, Cherie Calbom explains that important hormones can get disrupted with lack of sleep. Ghrelin, produced when we don't get enough sleep, stimulates appetite, while leptin, released when we get plentiful sleep, regulates and balances appetite (p. 10).

Sleep is a great tool. It can give us an edge in keeping our health strong and our weight in check.

The Bible on zzzzs

The Bible says that sleep is a blessing given by God. In the book of Psalms, King Solomon of Israel was inspired to write that God "gives His beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2).

If God presents something as a gift, it is definitely important! Of course, we also have to remember that too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect. As Proverbs 6:10-11 cautions, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man."

The crucial lesson is to get the proper amount of sleep. Too much is just as bad as not enough. Individuals vary in their specific need for sleep, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep a night to function best (

Creating a good habit

The toughest part of establishing a good sleep habit is getting started. Even if you are a night owl who regularly stays up late when you need to get up early, it's still possible to turn things around.

First, change your mind. Choose to think of getting to bed early as a positive experience. Consider it an investment toward good health with an outcome of feeling better, staying trim and having more energy during the day. Then start small. Choose to get to bed 30 minutes earlier each night over the course of a couple of weeks until you have achieved your ideal bedtime.

Prepare your surroundings for sleep as well. Keep lights low in your room. You may also need to turn off computers or other electronic devices. Signals and high pitched noises from these can impair your sleep if you are sensitive. Begin to wind down early in the evening. Additional keys include limiting drinks with caffeine prior to going to sleep and going to bed at the same time each night (Valerie Strauss, "Wake Up: Sleep Is Vital to Your Well-Being," The Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 17, 2008).

Taking care of our bodies is our God-given responsibility (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Get enough sleep and you are more likely to feel better and remain fit and trim! VT