When I look back at the times I’ve struggled most with my weight and my “starve/punish/feast” lifestyle, I was sleep deprived. I didn’t know at the time that my sleep had anything to do with my weight. I certainly neverconnected the dots to see that quality sleep underpinned everything from my energy, mood and hormones to my desire to exercise. Simply put, poor-quality sleep increases the stress hormone cortisol. And elevated cortisol impacts your body in so many ways other than just sleep issues, including reproduction, immunity and inflammation, as well as your thyroid and other hormones like insulin. Stubborn weight loss will often occur when our hormones are dysfunctional or even just sub-optimal. Insulin is our fat-storage hormone working to feed our brain and muscle cells for energy. The thyroid hormone is the mother of our metabolic system and one phrase we most definitely dread is “slow metabolism”. These negative effects don’t take months or years to kick in – a single night of bad sleep can decrease insulin sensitivity to more than six months of a high-fat diet. Another not-so-fun fact: Sleep your way to weight loss Nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge knows that sleep deprivation and weight gain are firmly connected. Here, she reveals seven ways to make sure you get that all important shut-eye in a study of 82,000 nurses, it was found those who had six hours or less of sleep each night had a significantly increased risk of breast cancer. Here’s what you need to know to get a good night’s sleep tonight.
SEVEN SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL SLEEP
1 CALM INFLAMMATION
Chronic inflammation causes elevated cortisol and agitation of the nervous system, which can both lead to disturbed sleep. Fish oil and turmeric have been shown to assist in dampening down inflammatory processes in the body. While it’s preferable to get vitamins and minerals in their natural form via wholefoods so you enjoy the other nutritional benefits, supplements can help if you need a top up, so speak to your GP or nutritionist.
2 EMBRACE MAGNESIUM
Nutritionists refer to magnesium as “the great calmer” as it has been proven to reduce insomnia. To up your intake of this important nutrient, eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables, avocados, black beans and nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts.
3 GO FOR GLUTAMINE
This amino acid converts to the sleep-promoting neurotransmitter GABA. Animal proteins represent one of the richest sources of glutamine. Good sources include dairy products like organic milk, unsweetened yoghurt, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese, as well as chicken, beef and fish.
4 REDUCE LIQUIDS
After 4pm, limit your intake of water, juice, tea or any other fluids. These may result in frequent toilet trips throughout the night. The midnight toilet stop can lead to “monkey chatter” and an inability to fall back to sleep quickly. Caffeinated drinks, which act as diuretics, may lead to an even more restless night and bladder.
5 STEP AWAY FROM “ONE TOO MANY”
On a similar note, too many alcoholic drinks can also interfere with sleep quality. While alcohol may initially make you tired, many of us will wake from the effects of alcohol and feel tired but wired. This is because our calming neurotransmitter, GABA, dominates the first few hours of sleep after alcohol consumption but then becomes an nutrition excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, which often leads to middle-of-the-night sleep struggles.
6 EMBRACE EXERCISE
Don’t get caught in the cycle of “I’m too tired to exercise”, because reducing stress through exercise is well researched as one of the best steps for improving sleep. It doesn’t need to be excessive, nor should it be in the evening. Thirty minutes a day done consistently will be a welcome addition to your sleep wellness kit.
7 DON’T STARVEYOURSELF
When you pair tryptophan-containing foods with a small amount of good carbohydrates, the carbs help this all-important amino acid cross the blood-brain barrier (the brain’s security system) to actually reach the brain. Here, it calms your brain to help produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Tryptophan is found in yoghurt, milk, oats, poultry, eggs and bananas.
Sweet dreams, everyone.