Monday, June 10, 2013

Weighing Yourself to Sleep

My girlfriend suggested that I write on the subject of sleep for my blog.  After being diagnosed with a serious medical condition a few years ago she developed insomnia and her sleep patterns haven't been the same since. The prescription medications she has resorted to are helpful to a point but the days of going to bed and waking up 7- 9 hours later and feeling refreshed are a memory.

Chronic sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep are very common and even more so as we get older.  It's easy to become complacent and chalk it up to a sign of ageing but the truth is if you suffer from a chronic weight problem, lack of sleep can make matters significantly worse. If you have never had a weight problem this can cause you to develop one .

There are two hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin, that are responsible for the packed on pounds.  Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates appetite and Leptin is produced in the fat cells and is responsible for signaling the brain that you are full.  When you don't get enough sleep Ghrelin levels increase and Leptin levels decrease.  Therefore you have an increased appetite with a decreased sense of fullness.

A study conducted with Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin found that of the 1000 volunteers they studied, those that reported having slept less than eight hours a night had lower levels of Leptin and higher levels of Ghrelin. They also had higher levels of body fat. To make matters worse, those that slept the fewest hours per night weighed the most.
This is just one study but there are many more that corroborate these findings.  Therefore, it is not just diet and exercise that is crucial for weight management, sleep holds the same level of importance.  The next question of course, what can you do to get more sleep?
The following are common recommendations you will find to help you fall and stay asleep.
  • Sleep in a dark room.
  • Establish a routine, going to bed the same time and waking up the same time.
  • Don't take a nap for more than 25 minutes but avoid naps if falling asleep is your problem
  • Don't eat, watch TV or discuss emotional issues in bed. The bed is for sleeping.
  • Do not exercise vigorously before bed.
  • Keep the pet on the floor or in a crate rather than on your bed.
  • Avoid fluids 4 hours before going to sleep to avoid getting up at night to use the bathroom.
  • If you do get up to go to the bathroom use a dim light.
  • Keep the room at a cool temperature.
  • Sleep in a quiet environment.
  • Avoid nicotine and caffeine. They are stimulants and can cause you to arouse throughout the night
  • Avoid alcohol. It is a sedative but as it is cleared from your system you will wake up.
  • Follow up with your physician to determine if you have a medical condition such as Sleep Apnea or Restless Leg Syndrome that can be effecting your ability to sleep.
  • Discuss medications with your physician in conjunction with behavior modification.
What I have witnessed among friends, family and clients who report problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night is similar to what I witness with the those trying to change their diet.  People want results but not committed to make the behavior modifications needed to meet their goals.  The recommendations above may not cure sleep deprivation but they can help.  At the very least, it is worth committing to for a few weeks to determine what works for you.  I have found many people don't take those steps. 

I think back to my previous blog about the person who wants to lose weight but does not want to incorporate vegetables into their diet.  I think I made it clear that they go hand in hand.  In the case of sleep there is clear evidence that lack of sleep causes physiological disturbances that will effect  weight so sleeping a minimum of 7 hours, is ideal.

There are many other reasons beside weight management to get a good nights sleep but for the purpose of this blog, if you are serious about getting your weight under control then it is time to commit to doing what it takes to improve your sleeping patterns. 

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