Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No Ordinary Joe: How Your Morning Coffee Could be Making you Fat
by Bob Wells, CPT, PES

We live in a society where success and stature are measured not just in our bank accounts, but also in how many tasks we are able to simultaneously juggle. We are judged by how many consecutive hours we can remain "awake", with no regard for the consequences of our hard charging lifestyles.

Although scientific studies have repeatedly shown how a lack of sleep is detrimental to us--cognitively and physically, we often forgo sleep, or at least the recommended eight hours. In a study published in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that sleep deprivation has a variety of hazardous effects.

The results of this study demonstrate that getting less than 6 hours a night can adversely affect our coordination, reaction time and judgment, impairing them to the same level as someone intoxicated.

Such a lack of sleep also puts us at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, and an ever expanding waistline, according to another study.

Despite our awareness about these deleterious effects, we still scoff. Sleep, ah! Instead of taking measures to ensure proper sleep, we opt to chug down our ever growing array of caffeinated drinks to keep us awake and on the go. 

However, new research suggests that these caffeinated drinks we imbibe to stay alert, may also be responsible for our lack of sleep, and all of the aforementioned problems.

During wakefulness, adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, accumulates in the extracellular space of the basal forebrain during wakefulness, increasing our propensity for sleep. This increase in adenosine decreases the activity of the wakefulness-promoting cell groups.

When the activity of these cells decreases sufficiently, sleep is initiated. During sleep the adenosine concentrations decrease, as well as the inhibition of the wakefulness-active cells, allowing the initiation of a new wakefulness period. This new wakefulness period is characterized by a feeling of being refreshed and recharged--if we sleep long enough. If not, this is where caffeine comes in.
Dr. Andrew Krystal

According to Andrew Krystal, M.D., associate director of the Duke University Sleep Disorders Center, "...adenosine does not enter the nerve cells but it binds to receptors that reside in the cell membrane .  Caffeine appears to have 2 effects: 1) blocking these receptors; and 2) diminishing the production of adenosine."

"When it blocks the receptors it directly prevents adenosine from causing sleepiness. By decreasing adenosine production at any time it decreases the sleep propensity the subsequent night."

Therefore, even a lone cup of caffeinated drink, often coffee or tea, at 7am will affect your sleep on the subsequent night, leaving you less rested, cognitively impaired, and with a greater risk of gaining weight.

Special thanks to Dr. Andrew Krystal for his time and help in reviewing the research for this article.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. The physiology is interesting and really just reinforces what most people already know. You need your 8 hours of sleep.

    It seems like there is just more and more evidence of the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation. I don't remember whom talked about it or wrote about it, but Bill Clinton was known to work on a very limited number of hours of sleep and that may have significantly contributed to his heart disease.