Health,  Lifestyle

Sleepy Much?

By Claudia Wilson

You’ve probably heard or read that sleep is important. Sleep significantly influences how you behave. Adequate sleep keeps you mentally sharp, reduces the stress you feel, and repairs the wear and tear the body receives during its waking hours. Inadequate sleep makes you less productive, slower in general, more stressed, and the lack of sleep weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness, like just a simple cold.

Sleep is also related to our body size. Research shows that there’s a link between inadequate sleep and weight gain and that less than 5 hours of sleep per night can mess with your hormones, slow down your metabolism, and trigger your body to crave more. I think it’s helpful to understand how and why this happens. It’s an important component of THE ONE-TWO PUNCH, as it directly relates to your ability to sense hunger and affects how often you are hungry.

Your sleep also influences your sensitivity to the hormones ghrelin and leptin.  Ghrelin is your hunger hormone and leptin is your fullness hormone. In addition, your lack of sleep can affect the amount of the hormones secreted.  Like a toddler who’s tired and having a tantrum because they can’t deal, you have less ability to access your coping skills when you are tired.  So trying to figure out whether or not you’re hungry gets murky.  Physically, with less sleep, your body tries to adapt and give you the energy you are lacking.  It tries to protect itself.  So what does it do?  It spits out more ghrelin to make you feel hungrier (and eat more) and spits out less leptin to make you feel less full (and eat more).

In addition to feeling hungrier, without adequate sleep, the food you crave is higher in fat and carbohydrates.  It’s as if you need more bang for your buck to try to make up for lost zzzzz’s.  Studies have shown that after just one night of poor sleep people craved more fatty and sugary food the next day.  All in an effort to make you feel like you have energy when what you really need is a nap!!!  This is something to be aware of when you are trying to decipher your physical sensations of hunger. You might be just plain tired.  You can choose to power through with a brownie, or do things unrelated to food to keep going or take a rest (which is not always possible).

Research studies have data to match all these actions. Studies show that people sleeping less than 6 hours a night have larger waist measurements, weigh more, and a have higher BMI’s (body mass index) than people who sleep closer to 8-9 hours.

What does this mean for you as you follow THEONE-TWO PUNCH? The obvious, most logical answer is get more sleep!!! But life is busy and crowded and that’s not always possible. If you understand that you’re sleep deprived and also craving more food, including intense carbs, it might be easier to keep those cravings in check. It’s when we don’t understand what’s happening or why we’re doing something, that can get us into trouble and make us feel powerless (and then regretful the next day). If I know that I’m being pulled by peanut butter m&m’s because I’m really tired, I can have a conversation with myself about waiting until tomorrow when I feel more rested.