Sleep and weight gain go more hand-in-hand than you might think. Recently, a client of mine struggling with midlife weight gain questioned why I was pressing her to sleep longer, to create a nighttime sleep ritual and keep her bedroom cool and dark like a cave. She insisted she slept fine for 5-5.5 hours a night and doubted how this could be affecting her ability to lose weight. The importance of restorative sleep is often misunderstood and under-appreciated when it comes to health, body weight and quality of life.
Sleep is critical in the repair and rejuvenation of every system in our body. For instance, world renowned brain researcher Dr. Daniel Amen, of the Amen Clinics, suggests that any less than 7 hours a night of sleep causes visible brain damage to areas which control metabolism, appetite and hunger. There are many who are familiar with functioning in a sleep deprived state, but there is a distinction between being familiar with it and really thriving. You may have heard stories about people who thrive on just a few hours of sleep but realize this is not the norm. Only 3% of the population posses a gene allowing them to function well on less sleep. Most of us will suffer with excess weight gain or weight loss resistance, dietary indiscretions, hormonal dysregulation and poor brain function on less than 7 hours.
If you are convinced you are getting the hours your body really needs, give yourself this challenge. For 3 weeks, aim to sleep 7-9 hours a night. Turn off all electronic devices, tv, take a relaxing bath, use blue light blocker glasses or candles vs. artificial lights after sundown and get to bed by 10pm. Sense how you are functioning, monitor your moods throughout the day and how the way you interact with others changes too. Also, see if there is a positive shift in your metabolism or weight. Record your food and caffeine cravings and if you feel more satiated after your first serving. I challenge you to test this out yourself. As always, this is your grand health experiment, but creating good sleep habits are a tool that can make a big difference.
“It’s time to get over being a type A woman”, says Arianna Huffington, cofounder of the Huffington post in her 2011 TED talk. Become your own evangelist for getting quality sleep. Get your zzzzz’s and watch your food choices change, weight go down, mood and energy improve! Happy snoozing!
Author: Dr. Siobhan Kealy
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