Sleeping Beauty was definitely on to something, and I’m here to tell you why! I have touched on the topic of sleep and stress management in one of my previous articles called Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitmas: Sleep and Stress Management During the Holidays. It seems as though the times when we need sleep the most, we actually sleep the least. It is when we are the most stressed out, with the biggest to-do lists in the world, that we tend to run ourselves on empty, and then pay for it big time in the long run. Not getting enough sleep can be quite dangerous! You could burn yourself out, and cause yourself to get seriously ill.However, sleep deprivation is not just bad for your overall health and well-being , it can actually dull your brain activity. This causes you to make bad decisions, because your frontal lobe (which is in charge of decision-making and impulse control) is deeply affected by lack of sleep, it’s kind of like being drunk. Sometimes lack of sleep can be worse than being drunk! We shouldn’t drive, or operate any sort of machinery drunk, so why is it so common that we force ourselves to drive, or go to work when we are sleep deprived? That can’t be safe right?! Safety aside, if you’re drunk (or just overtired) you are more likely to over eat, and eat take out food. You are also likely going to skip out on exercise as well. All of these activities, and drinking excess amounts of caffeine only exacerbate the situation, making you feel more tired, stressed out, lazy, and just not good.
In addition, if you’re overtired, and you can no longer control your impulse to grab McDonald’s instead of making yourself something nutritious for dinner, your brain’s reward system is revved up when you’re overtired. So, now you have a craving for McDonald’s that you can’t control, and once you eat that McDouble sandwich, because it’s comfort food (high fat, high carb, lots of salt), your brain’s reward system is going crazy! This makes it even more difficult to not eat take-out again, or to resist grabbing desert after your McDouble, and grab a snack size McFlurry. Basically, being impulsive and caving into your cravings for comfort food because you’re so tired, and your reward system being heightened only perpetuates the issue. You’re tired so you need energy, and comfort food is high calorie aka high energy, so once you eat it, you feel awesome, and then you don’t. Your insulin level spikes, and then falls drastically making you feel like a slug. Supper tired, and fat. Generally, you want to pass out right after you eat these things, which is probably one of the worst things you can do. If you can’t go to sleep after eating a high calorie take-out for lunch, then you’re more likely going to pick up a coffee of some sort, which will affect your ability to sleep well that night. This is because it takes about 4-6 hours for the effects of caffeine to ware off. This all depends on how much coffee you drink after lunch, how fast your metabolism is and so on. If you are a smaller human, the effects of coffee last much longer, than if you were a larger, more muscular human. These high calorie, and highly caffeinated diets only make you feel like an empty shell of a human that is just going through the motions. Who wants to live like that? You feel awful, and you will never look your best if you keep that up.
Moreover, people who lack sleep, are more likely to indulge in late night snacks. These snacks also tend to be high carb and high fat, like cookies, or chips. It’s so funny when clients tell me they don’t have a sweet tooth, but they love chips. I think people forget that just because it doesn’t taste sweet, does not mean there’s no sugar or carbs in it. Potato chips are high carb, high fat, and high salt, which will only have you retaining water. So you’ll wake up looking and feeling super puffy and fat. No one likes to feel bloated, and fat! Even if you’re doing a good job of trying to avoid eating junk food, when you’re tired, you are more likely to just eat more food in general. This is because your body is lacking energy, so it’s going to try to eat energy (calories is energy for the body). So, you will start to eat more calories in general if you’re not getting enough beauty sleep, to try to make up for the lack of energy. Maybe that’s why they call it beauty sleep? Either way, we all feel better, and look much better when we are properly rested.
Sleep is like nutrition for the brain, and most people need at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Getting less than that can cause the most determined dieter to reach for the pint of ice cream. If weight loss is a major goal for you? Then your first goal should be to get on a regular sleep schedule no matter what. No matter how stressed out you may be, or how much work you may have to do, you cannot perform properly if you’re not sleeping. Even if it seems counter productive to quit working late nights, because you’re trying to “get ahead,” how much quality work are you actually getting done? I personally find that I am the most effective and productive during the day. I feel the best when I have gone to bed early, gotten 8 hours of sleep, and I have started my day early. I love starting my day early and ending my day early. It makes me feel so productive, and I also feel like I have enough of my day left to rest and decompress before I have to go to bed again and start over the next day. Believe it or not, your workload isn’t going anywhere, and you can walk away from it, then come back to it the next day well rested and better able to tackle it. I know there are times where you may feel like you can’t just “walk away” from your work, but you’re going to be working for most of your life anyway, so is it worth sacrificing your well-being? Maybe that’s something you have to ask yourself? I actually think that you would be able to get much more done during your regular work day if you sleep well, eat well, and exercise on a regular basis, and you won’t have to let your work life encroach on your home life too much. How about that? Sounds lovely right? I’m sure most of us know that we need more sleep, and we need to eat better, and exercise, but far too many of us don’t do these things enough.
If I still haven’t convinced you to get more shut-eye, or to take a nap here and there, then did you know that lack of sleep can affect your hormonal health as well? If your hormones are out of whack it is much more difficult to resist cravings, and cravings come much more frequently. This doesn’t just effect women, if effects men as well. However. ladies, you all know what it feels like when your hormones are out of whack and all you want is chocolate by the truck load! Lack of sleep impacts your leptin and ghrelin hormones. These hormones signal your brain to let you know when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Ghrelin tells your brain when it’s time to eat. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain produces more ghrelin. Leptin on the other hand tells your brain when to put your fork down. When you’re sleep deprived, leptin levels plummet, which only tells your brain that you need more food. If you put all of this together, it’s pretty obvious how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. The stress that you’re putting on your body now from lack of sleep, a high caffeine/high calorie diet, plus all the stress you’re putting on yourself from work, your home life, your finances and so on, only signal your body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol.What is cortisol? It is one of the steroid hormones and it is made in the adrenal glands. Secretion of this hormone is controlled by hypothalamus, the adrenal gland, and the pituitary gland. Because most cells in the body have cortisol receptors, it affects many different bodily functions. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory. It can also control salt and water levels in the body, as well as blood pressure. People with high cortisol levels tend to gain weight rapidly in the stomach, chest, and face. Often doctors will notice this because the person will have slender arms and legs, and most of their weight gain is centered in the middle of their body. There are several more negative effects of high cortisol levels, including an increase in anxiety and depression as well. Now, sleep deprivation will have you eating more, more often, and it will reduce your body’s ability to metabolize all of this extra food. This will only have your body gaining weight and hanging on to fat. If that wasn’t enough, like I mentioned before, sleep deprivation will cause your body’s ability to process insulin ( a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy) to go out of whack. This is bad because, if your body is having trouble responding to insulin, then your body will have trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, and will therefore store them as fat.
I’m not saying that if you sleep, you will lose weight (it is possible though!), what I’m saying is that not enough sleep hampers your metabolism and it can lead to weight gain. Also, getting adequate sleep will have you feeling much more motivated to not only tackle your work day, but to exercise on top of that! You be much more productive at work, and in your life in general! This will only have a positive effect on your overall well-being. Your mood will improve, and so will your energy. Proper sleep will have you making better food choices, which will give you the fuel to power through your day, and your workouts. Regular exercise will have you getting more quality sleep, and the circle continues. As you can see, everything is connected. Nothing in life is every separate from another. Better sleep positively effects your diet, workouts, and your diet and workouts effect your sleep. If you feel like everyday you’re just going through the motions. Like you’re surviving life, rather than living life? Then maybe you need to take a step back, and re-evaluate what you have going on. Take more time out of your day to take care of your basic needs, this includes proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Even if you don’t think you need to lose weight, exercise is not meant just for weight loss! We all need to keep our bodies strong so that we can conquer the crazy things that life throws at us. Life is too short to not be able to enjoy it fully, and no one is having fun if they feel tired all the time! So, if getting enough quality sleep seems to be a consistent issue for you? Then here are some tips on how you can begin to improve your sleep schedule:
- Shut down your phone, laptop, television, basically all your electronics a half hour to an hour before bed. The blue light that is shines from those devices negatively effects your REM cycle. Plus, reading a stressful text, or email can have you up all night when really there’s not much you can do about it until the morning anyway. So, I put my phone on do not disturb before I start to brush my teeth and such before bed. It helps a lot!
- Do your best to leave the bedroom for just sleep and sex. Think of your room as a place for relaxation of release, rather than a place for work and entertainment.
- We all have morning rituals, things we do every morning before work, do the same for your bedtime. Have an herbal tea, read a book, have a bath, anything that you find relaxing. Have some YOU time, you deserve it! 😉
- Try to wake up, and go to sleep at the same time everyday, even on weekends! This is something that I have a hard time doing, and it really does affect my Monday mornings… I’m sure many of you can relate!
- Avoid alcohol, and heavy meals close to bed time. This will cause you to have a restless sleep. Also, make sure to not have caffeine after 4 pm because like I mentioned above, it can take up to 6 hours for you to metabolize all the caffeine.
- Lastly, make sure your room is nice and dark! Darkness tells your body it’s time to sleep and it helps your body produce melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. Light on the other hand suppresses the release of melatonin.