For years you have been told that if you eat better and exercise you will lose weight. You’ve done the programs, the diets, and everything in-between, and you still aren’t seeing the success you thought you would. What if I told you that your sleep habits might be the culprit? Sleep is something we take for granted. It is just something we know we have to do every night if we want to survive another day. Sixty percent of Canadians are surviving on 6.9 hours of sleep, which means they are awake for 17.1 hours each day. Thirty percent claim they get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Most of us slept well as children, and now as adults accept our restless nights as part of growing older. In reality, however, a restless sleep is a sign of an imbalance in the body. Let’s look at what happens when we sleep!
Repair, Repair, Repair
When we sleep, our body uses all of its resources to repair damage that has occurred during the day. If you work a physical labour job or workout daily, rest is even more important! Most athletes need 8-10 hours of sleep to consistently perform at a high level. Sleep is also when our body repairs our heart and blood vessels during sleep. A lack of sleep is linked to higher rates of heart disease.
While you are asleep, your brain is awake. The brain never sleeps. There are areas of the brain that are more active while you’re asleep vs. when you’re awake. Our ability to learn is greatly affected by a bad night’s sleep. Studies have shown that individuals who learned something new and then were sleep deprived, had a more difficult time recalling what they had learned compared to those who weren’t sleep deprived. The theory is that when we sleep, we are able to process the new things we learned during the day and commit them to memory.
What does sleep have to do with weight loss?
Five hours of sleep or less per night raises your chance of obesity by 50 percent. When your body is lacking sleep there is an increase in Ghrelin. Ghrelin is our hunger hormone. It signals the brain which then signals your stomach to let you know it’s time to eat. Ghrelin can especially cause sugar cravings for short term energy. Lack of sleep can also cause more glucose to be released into the blood stream as a solution for lack of energy, which over time can lead to glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. Lack of sleep can also lead to increased stress; it’s not necessarily that your day got more stressful, but your perception of things when tired may lead to more stress. More stress leads to an increase in cortisol, which in turn leads to more storage of fat for later use. It can become a vicious cycle!
What do I do?
When it comes to a good night’s sleep, there are a few tips that can help you improve your current sleep patterns. I have listed a few below.
- Turn off all electronics an hour before bed. Instead of watching tv or playing on your phone, opt for a book or some good conversation with your partner.
- Make sure you room is as dark as possible. Light is a signal to our brain that it’s time to wake up. If street lights or even the moon is too bright they will cause you to wake up. Installing some thick blinds or curtains can go a long way to get a good night’s sleep.
- Stop drinking fluids an hour before bed. This will prevent you from having to get up in the night to use the restroom.
- Use natural remedies. There are many natural sleep remedies on the market today. The great thing about natural remedies is there are no long term negative side effects if you choose the right one. Speak to a medical professional about what would be best for you.
Remember, you deserve a good night’s sleep. Don’t settle for anything less.
Eat your veggies!