Is Sleep Crucial for Weight Loss?

Sleep Is Important
Sleep Is Important

Coffee’s Popularity

400 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world each and every year.

We have our caffeine connoisseurs that will only drink their morning time beverage directly from a French press. Of course it must have been ground and come directly from some far off land such as Columbia or Ethiopia.

Then there’s shmucks like me that will drink any old Instant rubbish from the nearest supermarket. Lattes, cappuccinos, mocha’s, flat whites, Americanos, espressos, you name it! They’ve all exploded in popularity over recent years.

So let’s ask the question as to why? Is it because of the beautiful aroma or familiar taste? I think not.

What about the price? Definitely not! One word; caffeine.

We live in an increasingly fast paced society that is prioritising ‘work’ and other commitments over our health. One aspect of health which has taken a serious beating is sleep.

Nowadays people ‘don’t have time to sleep’. Five hours here, six hours there, because we don’t want to miss out on life. Sleep deprivation has become a severe medical issue.

Lack of sleep has been linked to road traffic accidents, workplace injuries, mental health issues and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

 

The Power of Sleep

What if I were to tell you there was a magic pill that gave you better energy, led to less cravings for processed sugar and fat, increased your metabolism and made you feel better on a whole? You’d tear my hand off for that. There is no magic pill, only your bed.

Sleep could well be considered the most important facet for weight loss. Sleep, and lack of, affects our hormones. More specifically our appetite regulators; leptin and ghrelin.

These two amazing hormones tell the body when to eat and when not to. Leptin could be thought of as the hormone which tells our brain to stop eating. When we have sufficient stores of fat and energy, fat cells send a signal to the brain to decrease appetite and increase metabolism.

On the flip side, when lower amounts of energy and fat are detected, ghrelin sends signals to the brain to increase appetite and decrease metabolism. In other words leptin tells the brain when to stop eating and ghrelin tells it when to start eating.

Sleep has a huge bearing on the amounts of these hormones. Sufficient amounts of quality sleep will keep these hormones in check to do their function correctly.

 

The Hormonal Chaos of Improper Sleep

However, when our sleep is restricted in some form or another chaos ensues. Just one night of poor quality sleep has been shown to decrease our levels of leptin and increase our levels of ghrelin. This ultimately drives an upsurge in appetite with a decreased metabolism to boot.

Not only this but participants in such studies also reported stronger cravings for processed carbs and fats due to sleep restriction. You may have noticed this effect after a poor night’s sleep.

As well as our appetite hormones being disrupted so too is insulin, our storage hormone. Perhaps you’ve heard of insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance? Insulin resistance is a pre-cursor for diabetes; when cells become resistant to insulin.

This is bad news as more and more insulin will be pumped around the body. Here’s the interesting part, just one night of poor sleep (4 hours), was shown to increase insulin resistance in the body! Those findings are huge.

Reading this may be giving you palpitations, but there are steps you can take to avoid these nasty effects.

Get Rhythm

Our bodies love routine! You’ve often heard of your ‘body-clock’, well it loves set times for sleeping and waking.

Perhaps during the week you’re up at 7am on the dot but once the weekend arrives you’re lucky if you get up in the morning time at all. Late nights out on the town and lazy lie ins are throwing our body clocks out of whack.

The thoughts of arising at 7am on a Saturday may not seem appealing, but your body will thank you for it.

One tip would be to get up at 7am do a few things around the house and then have a nap during the late morning.

Have a Good Sleep Environment
Have a Good Sleep Environment

The Sleeping Environment

We all know the struggle of tossing and turning during uncomfortably hot weather. Stick a leg out of the blanket here, turn the pillow to the cold side there but often it becomes unbearable.

There will be no worse kip than during scorching weather. Your environment is affecting your sleep in this instance through temperature. Always try to have your room cool, and if it is hot have a light duvet with a lower tog value.

Ever go to bed during the summer and be able to see how bright it is through the curtains? Harder to sleep isn’t it?

Apart from the unnatural feeling of sleeping during the day, light negatively affects our sleep, which I’ll explain below.

Avoid this by having blacked out curtains, so regardless of the time you have a pitch black room.

 

Artificial Light

In cave man times there were no watches, IPads or laptops. So how did our Neolithic ancestors know when it was sleepy time? It got dark.

Once the sun set it was time to hit the hay and get ready for another day of hunting and gathering. How did they know when to wake? You guessed it, it got bright.

Our bodies have evolved around this principle. When darkness sets in the body releases the neurotransmitter melatonin, which primary role is to bring on drowsiness and ‘prime’ the body for sleep.

However, if light is extended throughout the night then the release of melatonin is delayed leaving it more difficult to sleep.

Unfortunately artificial light through lighting, smartphones and televisions is disrupting melatonin. If we’re perched up in the sitting room with bright lighting then we are delaying the sleepiness process.

Not only this but it’s common place nowadays for us to like in bed staring up at our phones. The body doesn’t realise you’re creeping on an old school mate, it simply thinks that it is still bright outside, therefore not time to sleep yet.

Tone down all artificial light one hour before bed and stay off your phone.

 

Social Media

Back to creeping on that schoolmate, is it having an effect on your sleep? Definitely.

Having high levels of stimulation directly before bed is not ideal. For example, say that school mate has recently gone through a break up of a long term relationship. You may want to reach out to that person for comfort, or perhaps you’re a bit of a gossip and can’t wait to tell all your friends!

Either way, when you shut down your phone it’s likely all that you are thinking about.

Your brain is spinning thoughts uncontrollably with the negative effect being your decreased sleep time.

Similar to the light situation, try to stay off social media an hour before bed.

Use a Diary For Better Sleep
Use a Diary For Better Sleep

Diary/Lists

This has been a game-changer for me recently.

The concept is so simple that I’m baffled as to how I hadn’t thought of it sooner. My nearest and dearest will testify to the fact that sometimes my memory deceives me at times.

Often before getting into the cot I would think of some piece of work or project that needed done the following day, and instead of drifting off I would start worrying.

Not about actually having to do the task but about forgetting to do it amongst other things! It was madness.

So can you understand my glee when realising all I had to do was get a diary and write down a list of all the tasks to complete the following day? Get it down on paper and it is there forever.

No memory needed.

I recommend that everyone purchases a diary, not for Anne Frank style entries, just for writing simple lists down to keep you on track. Your sleep for one should benefit.

So for those of you that are having trouble sleeping or haven’t prioritised it before, work on it now! It will make losing weight that little bit easier.

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If you’re interested in taking part in a program with me why not send me an email to jamesmcdowellhealth@gmail.com