Weight loss progress and your need for sleep

 During the winter months, you may have felt more like staying home doing nothing and could have found yourself attracted to eating comfort foods. That’s understandable if you think of the animal kingdom where many species choose to hibernate. The additional fat layer would provide an extra layer of protection from the elements. Now with the warm weather of Spring and approaching summer, you probably feel drawn to spending time out doors. You may feel inclined to eat lighter especially with the greater availability of locally grown fruit and vegetables. Yet you still find difficult trying to shed those extra pounds you gained in January and February.

In this regard, are you getting enough sleep? Recent research at the Universities of Chicago and Wisconsin suggest that if you don’t get enough sleep, even when you are eating less calories, you may find it difficult to lose weight. Coming off a diet you also have a propensity to gain weight.

Not getting enough sleep can affect your ability to burn carbohydrates. Yes, you do burn calories when you are asleep. Lack of sleep can decrease or upset your sensitivity to insulin. It can also increase levels of cortisol in the blood, just the opposite of what you need for restful sleep. 

There will be decreased levels of the fat burning hormone, leptin, in the blood and increased levels of the hunger hormone, Ghrelin. The latter will make you more likely to raid the refrigerator late at night. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that have been recognized to have a major influence on energy balance. 

What is enough sleep? I may have mentioned to some of my clients that between 8 and 8.5 hours per night is ideal. My teacher of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) would always say that you should be asleep with lights out by 11.00 p.m. Of course, if we were really following the  four seasons as the ideal model for life, we would always get up when the sun rises and go to bed when the sun went down - probably not too practical in the modern age.

If you have got used to taking only 5 to 5.5 hours of sleep per night, you might need a little practice in learning how to sleep longer. When I went back to school to learn massage therapy, hours of intense study necessitated many short sleep nights with the resulting havoc it played with my internal clock. I would often wake up unnecessarily at first light, even on weekends. The following can help you reset your sleep system so that you can more easily adapt to longer sleeping hours. Here are some pointers in no particular order: 

Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages beyond midday. 

Limit alcohol consumption in the evening. 

Don’t keep electronic devices, cell phones, computers, televisions in your bedroom. Don’t use these devices at least thirty minutes before going to bed. 

You can perform more restful activities before going to bed, such as reading a book, meditation or deep breathing exercises. 

Don’t have a hot bath before bedtime. That leaves the body too stimulated.

You might benefit from drinking non-caffeinated herbal teas such as chamomile. Some people also respond well by adding a few drops of valerian extract to this concoction. 

Draw curtains so that you sleep in a darkened room. That way you will not be woken by sunrise at shortly after 5 a.m. 

Physical activity during the day - going to the gym, taking a walk or other exercise can help. If you are more active during the day then that can make you more receptive to sleep and rest at night.

Good luck with your weight loss progress.