Sleep more, weigh less??
What if I told you that sleeping well and sleeping long enough have everything to do with your weight? It does. Sleep does wonders for the way we feel and the way we look. In fact, if you are not getting enough sleep, the cards are stacked against you controlling your waistline. What if I were also to tell you that if you are not sleeping well you cannot fight the hormonal and biological messages your brain is sending to eat and keep eating? Willpower has no chance against those messages.
Why? Let's discuss the role of hormones on your weight, and I am not referring to the hormones associated with a woman's cycle, I am talking about the hormones that message your brain that you are hungry, that even after eating you are not full, and that tell your brain to hold onto fat. These hormones are formed and controlled during sleep and require you to get enough sleep to work with you instead of against you.
Let's break them down:
Leptin, when doing it's job, cues your brain that you've eaten enough. Low Leptin levels signal your brain to continue eating even after you've had an adequate amount of calories. But to make matters worse, it specifically sends the message to eat simple carbs (cookies, chips, french fries, sodas) for a quick energy boost. This leads to hormone-dictated, bad food choices and calorie binges and is no bueno for your weight.
Ghrelin is the hormone that sends the messages to the brain that you are HUNGRY...it's time to eat! When you have not gotten an adequate amount of sleep or the quality of your sleep is poor, your body makes more Ghrelin and the brain is attacked with a hormonal message that you need to continue to eat. This is not a situation where willpower has a fighting chance. The message to eat will not be denied.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that signals your body to conserve energy (calories) to provide fuel for your waking hours. Just one night of poor or too little sleep can cause measurable elevations of cortisol. What does this mean? It means you are more likely carry around extra belly fat and due to your cortisol level, that fat will be harder to lose. One way to control your cortisol levels is to get deep, regular sleep.
Now that we understand why sleep impacts your weight, let's discuss ways of achieving better sleep.
- Take a bath. It's proven that when you take a bath (or hot shower) after a long day, your body temperature rises while bathing and then drops quickly as you get out. This drop in temperature helps prepare the body for a deeper sleep, more quickly.
- While you're in that bath, use Epsom Salts. Epsom Salts contain Magnesium which is an essential nutrient that helps reduce cortisol, aids in the reduction of muscle tension and twitching, and provides a relaxed, sleepy feeling. (and many, many other amazing things for your body. There will soon be an entire article just about Magnesium) If you do not have access to a bathtub, ask your doctor about adding a Magnesium supplement to your routine.
- Try not to eat heavily or drink alcohol within 2-3 hours prior to the time you will try to fall asleep. The digestion of food and absorption of alcohol are known to wake you shortly after falling asleep.
- Finally, and this is a tough one, no TV or backlit screens (phone, Computer, iPad...)for at least thirty minutes before bed. The lighting of these interfere with your circadian rhythm by allowing enough light through your eyes so as to trick the brain that it is still daytime. Your brain is designed to begin it's "winding down" as the sun sets. Instead, read by a lamp, listen to a podcast in a dimly lit room, or hell....why not go for it and meditate?? You are wanting to be the best you, no?
As always, I'm here for you. Let me know your struggles and let's figure this sleep thing out. It's just too important.