Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sleep and Weight Loss Success!

Huffington Post recently released and article Sleep Deprivation: Parents Aren't Doing Their Kids Any Favours By Letting Them Stay Up .... lots of awesome tips on the importance of protecting SLEEP not only for children but for ourselves as adults! 
In case you missed it I have already blogged about my passion for protecting sleep in children here however this following quote from the above article made me think about the importance for making sleep a priority OURSELVES as well! 

"(People) who are tired respond to that fatigue by producing more cortisol. Cortisol then stimulates a carbohydrate craving because carbs are the only food substance that the brain can use for energy. It's like the brain is saying: "I am starving here, but I have to go to work. Get me a bagel so I can function."
This type of eating can lead to obesity. The increase in childhood obesity correlates more closely to the decrease in our nation's average nightly sleep than it does to the explosion of screen access."
When I reflect back on own personal experience I can pinpoint that my struggle with my weight started at around the same time as I started struggling with chronic pain issues in my life and the resulting sleep issues that arose at that same time because the pain would make it hard to relax to sleep, I took medication to get to sleep as a result, when it wore off the pain would wake me up and the cycle continued for years that even when I weaned off the sleep medication falling asleep on my own was a challenge. I ended up so sleep deprived I had to go to sleep training clinic for a few sessions of monitoring and learn some new tips and tricks to help set an environment and routine in my life that made sleep a priority!
I hindsight learning about how sleep works in the body makes me realize that I totally make much better eating choices when I am well rested than I do when I am over tired or stressed both conditions that lead to the 'cortisol' rising in our bodies  and that bad cycle of poor eating choices.

When we understand how cortisol works in our body it cannot be a coincidence that most of the things we call comfort foods are CARBOHYDRATES!  See as carbohydrates do JUST that in our body ~ they temporarily comfort us and reduce the stress in our body from the high level of cortisol so we 'feel better' and therefore associate cravings for those food when we feel 'bad'. 

I totally know from personal reflection that when I am over tired and struggling with sleep depreviation not only do I make poor food choices but I also make poor choices in my life ~ I over spend money, I do not cope well with life's bumps in the road and will say things impulsively that I later regret. This leads to worry and stress and depressive thoughts and the cycle of high cortisol continues back to more poor eating habits cause the cravings for 'carbs' is unbearable. 
I can remember a point in my not so distant life where I would finally reach sleep only to DREAM about comfort foods and wake with such a craving I would get up in the middle of the night and EAT to curb it ... than I would feel guilty cause I know I should not be eating  it was just wicked! 
SLEEP has to be made a priority cause when I mess with my sleep everything else in my life starts to slide!
So it seems logical that answer to struggling with loosing weight has to start with breaking that PATTERN in your brain of craving carbs and derailing ones weight loss journey by fixing your SLEEP at the same time you are trying to be fixing your EATING because the TWO go hand in a hand in a balanced package.
Many of the same stratgeies for getting a better night sleep in CHILDHOOD apply to us as adults as well! 
PRIORITIZE SLEEP :Just like for children we need to make sleep a priority in our lives again ... work backward from when you need to be up in the morning on the majority of days in a given week and set your bedtime routine accordingly! Adjust ones routine and schedule around this prioritized bedtime routine CONSISTENTLY whenever possible 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year.
So I know for myself one of the hardest adjustments for me is keeping that routine consistent on the weekend as well as the work week because I do not NEED to be up at the crack of dawn on the weekend. However, just as happens in children, when I deviate and pull a late night on the weekend it 'breaks' my sleep routine. I will struggle for the upcoming week or two with sleep deprivation symptoms as I work to get back on routine and track. So when I do choose to be inconsistent with my bedtime routine and stay up late it has to be for a REALLY good reason that is worth that price to me in the coming weeks as I get back on track and I have to plan that I only do this in moderation before I end up all askew again!
So how do you choose your 'bedtime'? Well the easiest way is to work backward from your morning routine. So the experts recommend that for optimum health adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night . So if we go for the 'average' in the middle of that that means if our alarm goes off at 6am to get us up and ready for work we need to be ASLEEP by 10pm ... which means we should be in bed BEFORE 10pm to get the average of 8 hours needed.  Or if you have to be up at 5am than you need to be in bed before 9pm and so forth and so on.
Also when speaking of alarms when we are getting ENOUGH sleep we should not NEED an alarm to ourselves up in the morning our 'internal clock' should just go off for us and up we get.

RESPECT your INTERNAL CLOCK: Which leads me into the next key to changing my own health and wellness. Learning to respect one's internal clock Our bodies need to be able to rely on getting enough food, sleep and exercise for optimal health ... when we do not have a consistent routine that promotes this it stops 'trusting' that food, sleep or exercise will come at and it starts taking precautions ... one's metabolism slows down, the body stores calories as fat just to be safe, diverting energy from some organs for the benefit of more vital organs and so forth. All things where the long term effects start to impact our physical and mental health and well being! 
GET ACTIVE and BE OUTSIDE : Getting our body moving has so many benefits. Not only does it burn more calories than when we are sedentary but it also helps to balance our hormones including cortisol levels and ensures a better deeper sleep! I have been playing with my own research and my Fitbit tracking. I can tell by my sleep patterns which days I actually worked out hard verses which days I did not based on how often I wake up throughout the night ... being able to use tips and tricks to reflect on how what I do effects other things really helps to motivate me to GET ACTIVE! This article has some interesting info on the effects of cortisol and being active! 
In addition to get active we need to work at spending at least 30 minutes OUTSIDE daily as the sun has huge benefits not only when we are active while doing it but the natural sunlight has huge health benefits from Vitamin D, Serotonin and Melatonin production to just overall immune support!

EVALUATE the ENVIRONMENT: Just like children we need to set up our sleep environment to be conducive to getting good sleep! Create a routine before bed that supports you being 'relaxed' when your head hits the pillow and ready to move into sleep! Going like the energizer bunny right up until lights out is NOT going to result in having an effective nights sleep. Our brains need to time to 'unwind' from the day ~ figure out what helps you unwind and dedicate a period before bedtime to doing just that
Part of the decline of sleep for adults is the amount of LIGHT we are exposing our self too affecting our bodies ability to naturally create melatonin which regulates our sleep! So if you are having sleep issues experts recommend you avoid SCREENS for an hour or so before you want to be able to actually sleep ... this includes not only the normal television and computer but using an 'e-reader' before bed can also impede your sleep. I know for myself I actually have to cover the 'digital clock' light in our room because even just THAT amount of light affects my sleep. 
Another important sleep tip ~ make sure you have the right mattress for your needs and that you are engaging in healthy mattress care ... I have seen a great improvement since getting a 'dust mite cover'  and being able to have better breathing during sleep and less snoring from my man. Another tip to mattress care ... make sure you ROTATE it monthly so that you are not getting a Homer Simpson style worn groove in it! Not only will extend the life of your mattress but you get a better night sleep when it is properly supporting you!  

So hopefully for those out there who are battling weight issues like myself try having a look at your sleep patterns as it really might help shed some light on new strategies to try to help you find your path to success! 

Have an amazing day!

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

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