Sleep and Weight Loss

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Do you find that you have more difficulty curbing your hunger when you are tired? Do you crave sweets and have even less will-power to avoid them when you've been tossing and turning all night? This diet-busting behaviour has been clinically documented and there is now substantial medical evidence that suggests some fascinating links between sleep and weight. Researchers say that how much you sleep and quite possibility the quality of your sleep may cause variations in hormonal activity tied to your appetite.


Hormones that affect Sleep and Appetite


A study presented by researchers from Laval University, Quebec, showed sleep may influence levels of Leptin -- a hormone produced by fat cells. The hormone Leptin affects body weight regulation in the hypothalamus by suppressing appetite and burning fat stored in tissue. Additionally, the research suggested that there may be an "ideal sleep zone" that helps the body regulate its weight.


Another sleep-regulated hormone is Ghrelin. Ghrelin works with Leptin in a kind of "checks and balances" system to control feelings of hunger and fullness, explains Michael Breus, PhD, a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta. Ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite, while leptin, produced in fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when you are full.


A lack of sleep may result in over-eating because:


Sleep and the Stress Hormone Cortisol Factors in your life that prevent you from having a full night sleep may also be the cause of stress, which increases the release of the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol controls our appetite, often making us feel hungry even when we have eaten enough. It also raises blood sugar and insulin levels and results in increased fat deposition around the abdomen. To further complicate the situation, high cortisol can negatively affect our sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall or stay asleep when we finally do go to bed. This increase in stress hormone also has detrimental effects on other aspects of our endocrine system, like thyroid gland function which governs our metabolism. Sufficient rest and recuperation effectively reduces cortisol levels.


Food and Sleep The food you eat not only contributes to the quality of your weight and general health, but also on how well you sleep. Some foods help you sleep better, while others can make sleep difficult or even impossible.


Foods that improve sleep include fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and mushrooms. Even spices such as dill, sage and basil help with sleep problems.


Drinking milk before bedtime, a common method to aid sleep, is actually effective. Milk contains tryptophan, which can be converted to serotonin, the hormone that controls sleep. Honey, turkey, egg whites and tuna also contain tryptophan, which are good night time snacks.


Alternatively, caffeine-rich food and beverages should be avoided right before going to bed. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, soft drinks and some medications. Some foods that are rich in tyramine can also affect sleep. Tyramine actually causes the release of a substance that stimulates the brain keeping you awake. This is found in bacon, cheese, sugar, ham or tomatoes.


Spicy foods, on the other hand, may cause gastrointestinal reflux or heartburn and sweet or greasy foods can also cause indigestion and bloating. And though alcohol can make you sleepy, it actually upsets sleep patterns later in the night resulting to frequent waking in the night to urinate.


Even how much and when you eat affect sleep patterns. It is best to keep the last meal of the day light. Eating too much or heavy meals before sleeping may cause indigestion, heartburn and discomfort. It is recommended to start with a hearty breakfast, the main meal of the day around noon, and a light supper early in the evening.


You may also take vitamins and supplements to aid sleep. Calcium and magnesium helps induce sleep. Calcium-rich foods include milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sardines, salmon, broccoli, tofu, egg, and calcium-fortified food. Magnesium is found in nuts, almonds, cashews, beans, and spinach. Vitamins B6 and B12 are often beneficial and used in the treatment of insomnia. Some of the foods that contain Vitamin B6 are liver, meat, brown rice, fish, butter, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, and soybeans. Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals.


Be careful with what foods you eat, especially later in the day because it can directly affect the way you sleep. By improving your eating habits, you will have a better chance at a good night’s sleep.


Tips for Sleeping Better

To fall asleep easier and sleep better, give some of these suggestions a try:

Sleep disruption -- not staying asleep, rather than not getting to sleep -- has also been shown to have an effect on levels of leptin and ghrelin (a hormone that signals satiety). One of the many causes of sleep disruption among adults is overactive bladder. Talk to your physician about medications such as Detrol LA to help this problem.