Friday, February 4, 2011

Lose Weight Successfully: Get Enough Sleep, Be Less Hungry

This is part 2 of a series on the effect not getting enough sleep has on our efforts to lose weight successfully.

There is increasing evidence that insufficient sleep is directly linked to obesity and ailments such as diabetes. There has also been a lot of publicity about the direct relationship between obesity and diabetes, so even though I don't directly talk about diabetes much it is an important reason for us to achieve a healthy weight. Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as "adult onset diabetes") is much more common in people who are carrying too much body fat--no matter their age--then people in the "normal" weight range.

In addition to the diabetes connection, lack of sleep is also connected to heart disease, stroke and cardio-vascular issues. Bottom line is we have got to get enough sleep to be healthy! I know it seems obvious, but we tend to push ourselves thinking that giving up on sleep is our only option...that if we just get a little less sleep we will get more done, provide a better life for our families, make more money, etc. Truth is, if we become ill we will be LESS benefit to our family, COST them money and we will have LESS TIME with them--certainly less QUALITY time and possibly be LOST TO THEM FOREVER.

If that isn't enough, how about this: lack of sleep makes us hungrier!

Sleeping is actually a way for our body to regulate our appetite via hormones. When we don't get enough sleep the hormone that helps us feel satiated (leptin) is depressed. At the same time the hormone that stimulates our appetite (ghrelin) is increased.

Missing an hour or two once in a while is probably not going to make you obese. But chronically shorting yourself on sleep can. What's even scarier to me is that just 2 nights of shorting yourself of sleep can have this effect. I remember pulling all-nighters (often) and getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night for years, punctuated with nights of 10-12 hours sleep, but those short nights set me up for major health problems. Of course I didn't know that at the time, I felt I had to get the project done--whether it was for school or work--and feeling a bit tired was a small price to pay for the rewards I would receive.

Boy, was I wrong! I don't think anyone ever built a monument to someone because they missed sleep to get a project done on time.

A third hormone is also at play--adiponectin also helps regulate our body fat. When this hormone level falls (which happens with sleep deprivation, especially in Caucasian women) our blood sugar gets out of whack, our metabolism slows, and our cholesterol and blood pressure levels get out of balance.

Finally, the hormone melatonin is also affected by lack of sleep. This is especially important to those of us on a weight loss journey since studies have already demonstrated that healthy melatonin levels help us maintain a healthy weight.

Numerous studies are now showing that getting ample sleep on a regular basis is essential for our reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

Truth is, sleep is something that benefits our brains, our bodies and our emotions. When we are exhausted we don't feel good, we are less apt to believe we can positively impact our lives. Because our body's chemistry is out of whack it is harder for us to maintain the positive mental attitude we need to lose weight and we will reach for foods and drinks that give us artificial energy. Unfortunately that backfires on us in the long-run and we feel even more tired, so we grab more stimulants in the form of sugar or caffeine which just gets us even more out of balance and more prone to being overweight.

So put your health first and get some sleep.

If you aren't getting restorative sleep because of some other issues like insomnia or sleep apnea, if you feel tired even though you regularly are "asleep" for 8 or more hours a night--see your doctor. There are therapies that can help. Sometimes a medical condition can keep us from sleeping and that condition may be made worse by being overweight--or may be actually cured by losing weight, but we may need some help to break the cycle enough to get the sleep we need so we can have healthy hormone levels and body and brain chemistry that will aide us in getting a positive mindset about losing weight.

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