People often ask me, what is the 1 piece of advice I’d give them to help them lose the weight. My answer is always the same, and its often quite surprising, sleep! Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Any mother of an infant or child knows how much harder EVERYTHING is when you’re tired. You’re more cranky, can’t remember things, more likely to reach for sweet treats or coffee, have difficulty concentrating, less energy, etc. And its even worse when you’re caring for a tired child! Its enough to make the best mother reach for a bottle of Pinot!
Sleep is often the FIRST thing we cut as our schedules get busier. We stay up later or wake up earlier to get it all done. Even though we know, without enough sleep, we’ll be:
- less able to concentrate at work, risking our jobs or promotion
- more cranky and irritable, creating a rift in our marriages or relationships with our children
- less likely to remember things, causing injury, damage or taking more time to go back for things
- less likely to make good food decisions, increasing your waist line and weight
- less able to workout or exercise at the right intensity, decreasing your energy level and confidence
A few hours cut from your sleep each week, will eventually risk your health, relationships, job and overall enjoyment of life.
Why is sleep so important?
Our bodies have always been regulated by light. It has been that way for thousands of years. As the sun rose, so too did the cortisol (a stress hormone) in our body to prepare us for the activity of the day to come. As the day went on, and the sun began to set, our cortisol levels would start to drop off (around 3pm…..see where those 3:00 cravings come in!) and our melatonin (sleep hormones) start to climb. By 10:30pm our bodies are ready for sleep to repair itself from the damage of the day. First from 10:30pm-2am, the physical aspect of our bodies are repairing and replenishing themselves. Then from 2am-5:30am, the neurological aspect of our bodies are repairing themselves. Any disruption to these times, by getting to bed later than 10:30pm or waking earlier than 5:30am interrupts this repair and replenish cycle causing your body to have to work harder to function throughout the day.
What happens when our body has to work harder day after day to function?
More stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) are produced. These hormones signal to the body to be ready to act and to act fast. Blood is then moved to the extremities, reducing blood flow to vital internal organs. Breathing rate increases, but shallower, so we get less oxygen into our body. Oxygen that is essential for life (the human brain can only survive for 3 minutes without oxygen before irrevocable damage starts). Digestion slows as its not essential toward helping the body act or react. So any food that is eaten or digested, gets stored as fat to be dealt with later, once the body isn’t under stress. This fat tends to be stored around your waistline.
You can see how a lack of sleep leads to weight gain and deteriorating health.
Add in fluorescent lights, computers, tvs, tablets, phones, brighter light bulbs and the eye and body are constantly bombarded today to believe that it is daytime and therefore should be awake and ready to act.
A recent 2 year study by the National Sleep Foundation found the ideal sleep durations for different age groups.
They recommend that to make sleep a priority:
- stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends, getting to bed by 10:30pm and waking no earlier than 5:30am to maximize body, neurological and hormonal repair.
- practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, turning down lights and electronics off to prepare the body for sleep
- exercise daily to balance hormones
- evaluate your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light
- beware of sleep stealers, like alcohol and caffeine. Eliminate them where possible and don’t drink/eat caffeine past noon
If you’ve been struggling trying to lose the weight and have more energy, try making sleep a priority. In as little as a week, you’ll begin to see the benefits. Just like a over-tired, cranky toddler, don’t make sleep the thing you do only after everything else is done. Stop doing other things so you can get the sleep you need. Your body, waist line, relationships, job and family will thank you for it!!!!