In her last post, Crysta talked about the practice of mindful eating. She discussed the connection between eating on “autopilot” and weight gain. She posed several helpful questions to get you in the habit of practicing mindful eating, including: “Why am I eating, what am I eating, where am I eating, and how much am I eating?”
I want to revisit this topic in conjunction with healthy sleep habits. Restful sleep is crucial for many reasons. First, during sleep we produce essential hormones that control our appetite. A study beginning in 1989 by S. Taheri, Professor of Medicine at Cornell, and his colleagues demonstrated that individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had significant hormonal alterations compared to those who slept an average of 8 hours per night. The individuals who slept less, produced more ghrelin and less leptin. As a reminder, leptin controls hunger by suppressing appetite; so if you produce less, you will experience an increase in hunger. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite; producing more, makes you even hungrier.
If you aren’t getting plenty of sleep each night, your body’s ability to regulate hunger becomes dysfunctional, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible to practice the mindful eating techniques Crysta discussed. Cravings often become uncontrollable as your body struggles with a hormonal imbalance. These difficult to manage cravings often result in excess consumption of sugar, carbohydrates, fat, and salt – demonstrating your body’s futile attempt to find alternate energy sources.
Here are a few tips to help you get at least 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep every night:
- Create a calming evening routine: eat dinner, relax, take a warm shower, brush your teeth and get into bed
- Practice good sleep hygiene: do not read or watch TV in bed
- Make sure your bedroom is dark: melatonin helps us sleep better and light interrupts it’s natural production
- Create an optimal sleeping environment: white noise machines can be helpful in drowning out external sounds that may awaken you in the middle of the night, ensure the room is neither too hot nor too cold, avoid large meals right before bed
- If you find you have difficulty falling asleep at night or you wake up frequently in the middle of the night, visit your healthcare provider, especially if you’re having difficulty managing your weight
Remember, 7 to 8 helps manage your weight!
-Megan Vardeman, MPAS, PA-C