Think about the last time you had too little sleep. Perhaps you got into the habit of going to bed too late or perhaps the quality of your sleep was terrible…How did you feel when you woke up? Exhausted. Dazed. Confused. Maybe even a little grumpy? It’s not just your brain and body that feels that way—your fat cells do too. When your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic fatigue.”
- Sleep controls the body ability to use insulin.
With not enough sleep your body’s ability to properly use insulin becomes completely disrupted. A recent study found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30 percent with within just four days of sleep deprivation. (Now it is important to know that insulin is the fat storage hormone, the more you release the more fat your body is inclined to store.)
- There is more to metabolic hormones than just insulin.
Let me introduce you to leptin and ghrelin; your hunger is controlled by two these two hormones. Ghrelin stimulates feelings of hunger and its levels increase when you’re sleep deprived. At the same time, lack of sleep suppresses leptin, a hormone released by fat cells that signal our bodies that we had enough and to stop eating. In other words, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible. The less you sleep, the lower your levels of leptin (satiety hormone) and the higher your levels of ghrelin. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also supressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.
- Oh, wait! There is another hormone ….cortisol.
Chronic stress — physical, emotional, mental, (real or imagined) — causes our body to release high amounts of the hormone called cortisol. Cortisol makes the body deposit fat in areas such as the abdomen which has more cortisol receptors. It changes healthy peripheral fat into unhealthy visceral fat (fat around your organs) that increases inflammation and insulin resistance in the body. When cortisol levels are high, the body actually resists weight loss. It will also increase hunger, bringing along subsequent weight gain. You can have your cortisol levels checked by a blood or saliva test.
My hints on better sleep :
- Do not eat after 7 pm, or at the very least 3 hours before your bedtime
- Do not use computers or any other blue light emitting electronic devices after 8 pm. Because blue light is especially prominent in daylight, our bodies associate it with daytime, which may be why exposure to blue light makes us more alert. It also suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and is not produced during the day.
- Whatever your subconscious mind believes becomes a reality in your life, or in other words, your brain believes anything you say. If you start worrying about your sleep during the day you are programming yourself for not being an easy sleeper. From today start repeating to yourself “I fall asleep easily. I fall asleep the moment my head touches the pillow. At the end of the day, I am so tired that it takes no time for me to fall asleep deeply”. Repeat that a few times a day, specifically just before the bedtime.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning. This includes weekends.
- If you absolutely have to snack on something in the evening, make sure it’s food containing tryptophan: sesame seeds/tahini, cottage cheese, duck and turkey, bananas, a small glass of warm milk. When ingested, tryptophan is converted to Serotonin, a hormone that promotes relaxation.
- Get regular exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes daily — the light from the sun enters your eyes and triggers your brain to release specific chemicals and hormones like melatonin that are vital to healthy sleep and mood.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day. Have a glass of warm milk with a small teaspoon of honey, almond milk or cup of chamomile tea.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol influences our Nervous System in an excitatory manner. It will keep you awake rather than help you fall asleep (unless you get absolutely drunk, that is…)
- Take a warm aromatherapy bath (add a few drops of lavender oil into the water) – raising your body temperature before bed helps to induce sleep. A warm bath also relaxes your muscles and reduces tension physically and psychically. By adding one-and-a-half to one cup of Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) you will be absorbing magnesium through your skin, helping you to relax.
- Spray few drops of lavender oil on your pillow, bed linen or infused lavender water around your bedroom. You could pour a few drops on the shower floor while you take a shower.
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only – not reading on your iPad, smartphone or television.
- Take a little “holiday” in the two hours before bed. Creating a sleep ritual — a special set of little things you do before bed (warm bath, read a book, meditate…) to help ready your system physically and psychologically for sleep — can guide your body into a deep, healing sleep.
- Get a massage or stretch before bed (if at all possible) – this helps relax the body making it easier to fall asleep.
- Guided meditation or relaxation CDs work well. (Lots of good meditation apps on iPhone – try them, they are awesome! You can try guided meditation, where you listen to someone’s voice or maybe you prefer soothing sounds: rain, river, bush sounds…great for falling asleep)
- Listen to a quiet, calming, classical music.
- Give yourself some time – up to an hour – in dim light before you go to sleep at night. Lower the lighting in your house and bedroom, use candles. Then create total darkness and quiet — consider using eyeshades and earplugs. Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
- Write your worries down – one hour before bed, write down the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you might have to do the next day to reduce your worry. It will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep.
- If you get excessively tired during the day and your partner complains that you snore and appear to stop breathing during your sleep, you may have sleep apnoea. This is a condition where breathing is disrupted during sleep due to blockages to the windpipe. Sleep apnoea can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and raised blood pressure so if you have symptoms, make sure you seek help.
- If you can’t fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed, get up and read a novel or do something calming (meditation) until you feel sleepy.
- If all of the above fails, use herbs: Passionflower or Valerian. Both are sedative herbs, used for centuries. Take one to two capsules a half hour before bedtime.