How improving your sleep can help you lose weight and eat healthier

I was the heaviest I have ever been when I was severely sleep deprived. Clearly one of those times I had grown a human, but even after Oliver arrived, it was no coincidence that my diet was terrible for the 10 months when he wasn’t sleeping. The thing is for me, it wasn’t just about being bigger, it was my deteriorating health, feeling like I had lost control, having low body confidence and constantly being in the exhausting and vicious sugar cycle.

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Did you know there are scientific reasons why is it almost impossible to lose weight when you are not getting enough or quality sleep? In fact, good quality sleep is now known to be a driving factor in maintaining and losing weight, making healthier food choices and the ability to do exercise.

Breus (2017) stated that poor sleep causes your metabolism to slow down as well as increases insulin and cortisol production. In everyday language that means your expended energy is converted to fat. You may also notice that when you are not sleeping, you are constantly poking your head in and out of the fridge and cupboards looking for your next snack or food hit.

Sleep deprivation also triggers hormonal changes that regulate the feeling of being hungry and full. When you are sleep deprived the hormone Gherlin rises which stimulates hunger and leptin decreases which is the hormone that tells you when you are full.

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Am I the only person who has been sleep deprived that turned into a complete sugar monster? This was the first time in my life I experienced full blown sugar addiction.

According to Bergland, (2013) UC Berkley researchers discovered that poor sleep hinders the parts of the brain that control decision making, which make it more likely that you crave foods high in sugar, salts and saturated fats. The problem with this is the more sugar you eat, the higher your cortisol levels increase (your awake hormone) and the harder it is to sleep, yet the poorer your sleep the more you crave sugar. Which is why you may often hear about the vicious sugar cycle.

Although this research and facts are useful, what about if you are a sleepless parent with a sleepless child or you have been suffering with your own sleep challenges yourself. Does that mean you have no hope to lose weight or be healthier this year? Absolutely not, now is the perfect to time to start making the changes you need to help both yourself and your child’s sleep to significantly improve.

Here are four first steps you can take to improve yours and your child’s sleep so that you can achieve your health goals this year.

Caffeine

I know you are going to hate me right now, but hear me out. If you are looking to improve both your sleep (or your child’s) and achieve your health goals this year, then reducing your caffeine will have a significant impact.

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The National Sleep Foundation shared that consuming caffeine blocks sleep inducing chemicals and increases adrenalin production. All that means is it keeps you awake and hinders your chance of a good night sleep. So even though your cups of coffee, tea or fizzy drinks feel like they are keeping you are going, the caffeine is telling your brain that you feel wide awake making it harder for you to unwind or fall asleep. Hence why you need your next cup of coffee to keep going.

 

If you would classify yourself as a caffeine junky, I would not recommend just cutting it out as you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches. Instead, look to wean yourself off by cutting down by 50% every 2 days and note that it can take over 6 hours for your body to eliminate caffeine, so be sure to drink it before midday. Remember that decaffeinated tea and coffee still have caffeine in them so the best hot drinks you can introduce are warm water with lime or lemon, fruit teas or naturally decaffeinated tea such as Redbush tea.

 

Blue Light

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With the modern busy world, technology is a prevalent part of our lives. Devices such as televisions, computers, tablets, LED lights and mobile phones emit blue light. The main challenge with blue light and your sleep is that it delays melatonin (the sleepy hormone) production by two hours and it is also very stimulating.

Now I am not saying you should go back in time and remove all the technology from your house because it is important to be realistic with the world that we live in. I recommend that you take steps to reduce the blue light exposure during the evening, ideally no or little blue light 2 hours before bedtime. For 4-5 nights a week try other relaxing activities such as yoga, reading, painting, or other activities that you find relaxing.

When you do use blue light devices in the evening, be sure to put mobile phones and tablets on bedtime mode which blocks out the blue light, you can even invest in computer software called F.Lux to remove the bluelight from your computer screen or get yourself some sexy blue light blocking glasses for when you watch T.V.

 

Daily Routine

One of the biggest keys to unlocking yours or your child’s sleep challenges is your daily routine which has a huge impact on your circadian (daily) rhythm, this cycle tells you when to be awake and when to be asleep.

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Typically, your cortisol (awake hormone) is high in the morning and your melatonin (sleepy hormone) is high in the evening. Although if you are a sleepless super hero/heroine, it is likely that this rhythm is completely out of sync, making it difficult for your body to know when to go to sleep. Equally, the times you eat also play a key role in letting your body know when it is sleepytime.

I recommend that as often as possible your meal, snack, bed and morning awake times are the same time every day. I know it is hard but if you can try to get up at the same time even when you have had a terrible night this further helps your body to re-adjust. By making these changes your body can re-learn when it is time to be awake and asleep, which is essential when you are wanting to improve your sleep.

 

Exercise

Exercise may seem like an obvious step to achieving your new year’s resolutions of being healthier, losing weight or doing more exercise.  However, it is essential to consider the type of exercise you do and what time of day you do it when you are sleep deprived. It is likely that whilst you or your children are sleep deprived that your body is overproducing cortisol (awake hormone) which is contributing to your sleep challenges.

When you do intense exercise such as high intensity cardio e.g running, cardio at the gym, fast paced exercise classes or sporting activities, your body produces further cortisol (awake hormone) meaning that it is even harder to unwind to go to sleep.

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Imagine this during an evening time where you already have too much cortisol to fall asleep, you are already setting yourself up to fail at achieving both better sleep and your new years resolution of losing weight and eating healthier.

My recommendations are to start with gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, pilates, stretches and where possible exercise early in the morning and try to avoid evening time. If you need to do exercise in the evening then stick to a type that is beneficial for sleep such as bedtime yoga.

There are your four first steps to improving your sleep so you can lose weight or achieve your health goals at the start of this new year. I hope they help you to stick to your goals, but if you feel totally overwhelmed and have no idea where to start to improve yours or your child’s sleep, then book yourselves in for your Sleep Success Action Plan, where you have the chance to speak with me 1 to 1, you receive a full personalised plan and the support you need to feel happier and healthier at the beginning of this year. Find out more here

Kathryn StimpsonComment