Is lack of sleep making you fat?

Book review

The 4 Pillar Plan: Eat, Move, Sleep and Rest your way to a longer, healthier life by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.

I’ve just finished listening to Dr Chatterjee’s 4 Pillar Plan. As a busy working mum of two children, I find listening to audiobooks gives me far more opportunities to “read.” I can listen whilst out walking or driving in the car.

The book considers some of the weaknesses of modern healthcare in the UK in light of the growing obesity crisis and compares it to what Dr Chatterjee describes as a ‘progressive medicine approach.’ This is largely a functional medicine approach – considering the body holistically and treating ailments as interconnected to find the ‘root’ cause, instead of covering up the symptoms with drugs and polypharmacy. This is what I am trained in and also how I approach working with clients for nutritional therapy.

Dr Chatterjee gives a prescription for 4 areas of our health to address:

  • Nutrition and diet

  • Exercise (or ‘Movement’ as Chaterjee calls it)

  • Rest

  • Sleep

For each Pillar, Chatterjee gives detailed recommendations, but for this blog post I want to focus on “Sleep.”

What is fascinating about this Pillar is that Dr Chatterjee outlines the interplay of hormones which control our appetite, fat stores and sleep. In brief, if you are sleep-deprived the levels of leptin (the hormone responsible for feeling satiated) in the body are lowered and the levels of ghrelin (the hormone responsible for craving food – especially high-fat, high-sugar snacks) are raised. So you crave unhealthy food and after eating it do not feel as full, so potentially eat more! You can see how this unconscious hormonal interplay could wreak havoc on your nutrition and diet plans.

Dr Chatterjee gives 5 tips to aid a more restful sleep:

  1. Install a blackout blind in your bedroom (your body produces more melatonin – the sleep hormone – in darkness);

  2. Create a relaxing bedtime routine;

  3. Stop all texting, tweeting and screen-time one hour before bed (the brightness of digital screens compromises our ability to produce melatonin to fall asleep peacefully);

  4. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even at weekends – no lie-ins!

  5. Enjoy your caffeine before midday (for many people, caffeine in chocolate and coffee acts as a stimulant and can disrupt circadian cycles if consumed too late in the day).

Try them out for yourself tonight and sweet dreams!