You hear it all the time: If you don’t get enough sleep, you will gain weight. When I think about it, it doesn’t totally make sense because you aren’t sleeping, so you are being more active, right? Then I think about those days after I work a night shift, when I am getting things done in a haze, my brain is not fully functioning, and thinks happen a little bit slower, I feel miserable, and when I have a chance to stop and rest, I take it…so I begin to understand a bit more the whole weight gain portion.
When you do not get enough sleep, you are feeling tired and energy levels are low, leading to the use of caffeine and/or sugar to boost your energy levels to help you get through the day, which leads to energy crashes later in the day. For those of you who exercise in the afternoon, it usually means that it doesn’t happen, because your energy is zapped. And if you are a morning exerciser, you tend to feel to exhausted to get to your workout; a lack of energy leads to a lack of drive. And when you become dependent upon stimulants to get through the day, it can become a cycle, as sometimes you can overdo it with the caffeine and then have trouble shutting it down, even if you do have time to sleep. When you are tired and sluggish, you also tend to be more lazy; you don’t shop for healthy foods and/or cook for yourself, so you tend to eat what is available and easy. None of these things are particularly good for your waistline.
There are two main hormones that regulate your eating cycle: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry and you should eat, and it is at much higher levels when you are sleep deprived. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating because you are full, and unfortunately it is in lower levels when you are without sleep. A lack of exercise, high ghrelin, and low leptin levels is basically the trifecta for weight gain.
Add on top of that, your body is not functioning optimally with a lack of sleep, so it’s not just your brain that feels fuzzy, so do the cells in your metabolism, so they aren’t working at their best either. It’s not as if one night with a lack of sleep is going to make you gain 15lbs immediately, but when it becomes a cycle of sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night, and we are frequently reaching for comfort foods, eating more than we normally do, skipping on our exercise, and relying on stimulants to get through the day, it’s not healthy, and you will gain weight.
What can I do?
Cut back on the stimulants and don’t have any after 12pm, and start making a bedtime routine (essentially set a bedtime for yourself) to try to break the cycle. Also, forcing yourself to get some exercise, even though you already feel exhausted, even if it is just a long walk, really will exhaust your body….in a good way! It will help to relax your muscles when you are done, and get your brain ready to shut down and get a better sleep/rest. Also try to avoid heavy meals and alcohol right before bed, it can make you have troubled sleep and increase the risk of heartburn. Also, maybe a soothing lavender bath/shower before bed, to help calm your system and ready yourself for sleep.
Once you start sleeping regularly, you will feel a boost in energy, be more efficient, and be healthier. You can get into a health and wellness cycle by getting regular exercise, and eating healthier, which will lead to a really easy drop in weight…all by making one lifestyle change!
If you DO get 7-8 hours of sleep at night but it is troubled sleep or you always still feel exhausted in the morning you should see your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) because you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or another process going on that requires a sleep study or more in-depth review.
Try to set a routine, and breaking the habit of caffeine can be miserable (I used to be a complete caffeine addict and have sleeping issues, so I KNOW how hard this is) but it is so worth it to be able to cut the cord and feel yourself without relying on caffeine and starting to be healthy again. It seems impossible sometimes, but, I promise, it isn’t!
Yours in Good Health