When was the last time you got 8 hours of great sleep?
Did you know that sleep regenerates your cells, enhances fat burning and slows the aging process? How and when you sleep is one of the most powerful ways to improve your health and body composition. Study after study suggests that people who sleep well (more than 7 hours a night) are 55% slimmer (1), more attentive, less reactive to stressful situations, experience less anxiety, hunger and cravings (2, 3), and are happier and healthier. Let’s investigate further into how the effects of sleep drastically influence how you look, feel and function.
Ask Dr. Kealy…
Dr. Kealy, I have spent years working overtime and coming home exhausted but not able to wind down until late in the evening. I typically sleep 4-6 hours a night. This amount of sleep seems to work fine for me. I feel like I function well and am use to this sleep schedule. Am I unknowingly damaging my fat burning ability and stressing out my physiology? Could it really be the sleep shortage that keeps me from losing the last 20 lbs? Also, can you please share some sleep tips? Thank you.
– Jean, New Jersey
How Sleep Affects Your Well-Being
Sleep reboots the body’s hormones for balance. Before electricity allowed us to have light all day long, the only choice humans had was to either sit by a fire or go to bed when the sunset. Today we stay up way past sunset staring at cell phones, tablets, and gigantic LCD TV screens. These convenient, but addictive technologies elevate our cortisol levels (a.k.a. our stress hormone). As a result, our resting blood sugar levels increase, forcing our bodies to release insulin to lower it. Overtime, this interplay can lead to insulin resistance (i.e. diabetes), meaning the same amount of hormone no longer has the same effect. It requires more of these hormones to be released to accomplish it’s agenda. This creates a cycle of carb cravings, and elevated insulin and cortisol, resulting in weight gain, early aging and other health problems.
I always ask clients, “Do you want to watch TV or do you want a slim, healthy body?” You say you have adapted to your less-than-ideal sleep schedule. I think this choice you’ve made is something you’ve done for so long, that you now think this is “normal” and “enough.” But, the good news is you can just as easily choose to not be this way.
Doctor-Recommended Guidelines to Optimize Your Sleeping Patterns
A great night’s sleep lowers your hunger hormone, leptin. It also lowers insulin and cortisol levels. Additionally, sleep boosts melatonin, human growth hormones, testosterone and many others hormonal influencers. Sleep can dramatically improve your mood, productivity, body fat and slow the aging process. It is the ultimate anti-aging tincture! While you sleep muscle is built, fat is burned and neurohormones (like serotonin, the feel-good hormone) are reset.
If you continue to push your bedtime later to watch another episode of your favorite series on Netflix, then your hormonal software thinks it is day time. Thus, you will gain more weight and become more tired. One tip is to record a favorite show and watch it the next day at an earlier time. Some other things you can strive for and do to improve sleep include:
- Head to bed ideally by 10 p.m. Research suggests that people who go to bed closer to midnight have higher a.m. levels of cortisol than people who get to bed by 10 p.m. (4)
- Reduce your exposure to artificial lights 1-2hrs before bed. Light stimulates the hormones that get you up in the morning. If there is light at night, it’s more difficult for your sleep hormones to kick in. Try using dimmers with light bulbs and screens (aka. night mode) and candles after sundown.
- Avoid chemical stimulants after 3pm in the afternoon. Chemical stimulants include soda, energy drinks, coffee and tea with caffeine.
- Don’t eat 2 – 3 hours before bedtime. A good night’s sleep is incompatible with digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Your body needs 10-12 hours minimum without food to reverse hormonal resistance of cortisol, leptin, ghrelin and insulin. If you eat to close to bedtime you’ll lose the opportunity for fat loss and hormonal reset. You may also find yourself wide awake at 3am if you eat too many carbs before bed. This is due to the drop in blood sugars after a high carb meal. The body senses this drop and releases cortisol to bring blood sugars back up. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night your body perceives this as WAKE UP CALL!
- Reduce Stress. Get to the gym to reduce stress hormones, create a relaxing nightly routine, eat healthy, nourishing foods and begin a practice of meditation and breathing exercises to deal with difficult situations in a more hormone balancing way.
- Avoid alcohol. I am sorry to report but a healthy diet that promotes fat loss does not include the consumption of alcohol. When you consume alcohol, your body’s fat burning mechanisms slow to a sloth’s pace for several hours. It also dehydrates the body, which creates a double whammy of slow fat burning. I’ve worked with many women who followed the B3H+® Program to the letter, except when it came to drinking alcohol. As a result, their hormones and bodies had a hard time igniting a fat burning fire. If you cannot live without a few sips here and there, then try substituting it for a starch on your plate. In addition, pay special attention to how it affects your quality of sleep (waking in the middle of the night), energy, hunger and cravings. You may decide to cut way back because of how it interferes with your fat loss goals.
Can you see now and appreciate the role of sleep in generating your bodies metabolism to burn fat and balance hormones? Your choices around sleep are just as important, if not more at times, than your decisions about food and exercise. If you neglect this important nightly hormone reset, the B3H+® Program benefits will be difficult to attain. For more information on our program, check out our FAQs page here. You can also learn more about sleep and weight loss, as well as learn about our sleep challenge in our previous blog post here!
If you’re ready to book your appointment and get on your way to optimizing your sleep loss for weight loss, click here!
- Nedeltcheva, A. V., Kilkus, J. M., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D. A., & Penev, P. D. (2010). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Annals of internal medicine, 153(7), 435-41.
- Hart, C. N., et. al. (2014). Acute Changes in Sleep Duration on Eating Behaviors and Appetite-Regulating Hormones in Overweight/Obese Adults. Behavioral sleep medicine, 13(5), 424-36.
- Denis, D., Akhtar, et. al. (2017). Externalizing Behaviors and Callous-Unemotional Traits: Different Associations With Sleep Quality. Sleep, 40(8), zsx070.
- Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 8(3), 143-52.
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