No, no. This isn’t one of those kinds of discussions. I do not have a magic potion that will melt off the pounds during sleep.
If I did, I’d be labeling and bottling that stuff like crazy, right after securing my personal lifetime stash.
Let me clarify: We need to sleep to lose weight.
Intrigued? So was I. Follow me for the remarkable research.
Wait – Being Tired Actually Does Make Me Hungry?
Except it never seemed to work that way for me, and now I know why.
Too little sleep can increase the levels of the appetite boosting hormone, ghrelin.
So being tired CAN make me hungry! And check this out…
Too little sleep can contribute to cravings for high-fat/ high-calorie foods.
That wasn’t all in my head after all! It was in my hormones!!
But wait, my story gets even better.
Too little sleep can lower the satiety hormone, leptin
So I’m tired which can make me hungry. Brain says, “Eat high calorie, high fat foods and you’ll feel better.” Body says, “Eat as much as you want – not full yet.”
Awesome. Now there’s a recipe for packing on the pounds.
This recent New York Times article digs in even deeper. Check out this excerpt:
The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. On days when the subjects had not had proper sleep, fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, a higher-level part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made.
But I’m Not Sleepy!
But there are others in my household—perhaps in yours as well – that claim to be “wide awake” even though they’ve been motoring around for 16+ hours. Or they might simply say, “I just don’t need more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep.”
Forgive me, but this is hogwash.
According to virtually every study that’s ever been done, the adult human body needs at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day in order to function at optimal levels.
And to be clear, anything less than optimal is impaired.
I do have a secret admiration for these people, though – the ones who are so in love with the living of life that they just cannot bear to tear themselves away from cognitive functioning and activity. Plus, I do not doubt that, over time, the body adapts to calibrate its sleep expectations to the levels that it is being supplied.
That’s not optimal function, but it is functional.
OK, So What If I Want to TRY to Sleep More or Better or Whatever?
After a few conversations during which I enthusiastically exalted the excellent benefits of proper daily repose (ok, there might have been a little blackmail involved), my dear husband was willing to try a few things to improve his sleep.
But only a few, and, as he put it, “no woo woo crap.” No candles, no lavender, no sitar music, no subliminal tapes, or any of the rest of that… um… stuff.
I’m happy to report that the little changes he was willing to try have made a huge difference in less than a week. His sleep has been longer, deeper and more restful overall. Most encouraging is that he has stopped waking up between 1AM and 2AM then not being able to get back to sleep.
Here’s what’s working for him:
(1) Making Sleep a Priority – this was probably the biggest thing. Once he decided sleep was an important part of getting and staying healthy, it made it easier to take steps toward rest success.
(2) Bedtime Routine – same time each night, a little light reading then lights off.
(3) No Back Lit Screens – reading occurs on (old style) Kindle or a real book. No iPad, TV or other backlit device.
(4) Melatonin Supplement – The way this is supposed to work is to try to build up melatonin, a natural sleep chemical, in your system to help you set normal sleep patterns. The melatonin alone didn’t quite do the job for my husband, but the Precis brand, a natural melatonin “plus” formulation, seemed to work fairly quickly. Within two nights, he was sleeping more soundly with no fogginess the next day. Score.
Benefits of the Well Rested
When we get enough sleep, we think better because our cognitive brain functions more strongly.
When we get enough sleep, we feel better because our body has had sufficient time to repair itself.
And of course, when we get enough sleep we look better. Beauty sleep ain’t no myth.
Sleep. It’s the secret of champions.
Wishing You an Awesomeliciously Restful Day,