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Is Your Sleep Affecting Your Weight?


If you think that sleep deprivation isn’t affecting your weight, you’re dreaming. Over the past 40 years, the sleep duration of Americans has decreased by 1.5 to 2 hours. Today, many Americans sleep for only five to six hours per night. 

Sleep deprivation may contribute to problems - from a larger waist circumference, to increased accidents and to more heart attacks. Research shows that the amount of sleep, as well as the quality of your sleep, can have a profound effect on the production of the hormones that control appetite, leptin and ghrelin. In fact, insufficient sleep increases your appetite by over 20 percent!  Sleep synchronizes satiety!

Those who sleep fewer hours produce more ghrelin (the hunger hormone whose role is to trigger appetite) and make less leptin (the appetite suppressor which signals satiety). A sleepless night is typically followed by a day when no matter what you eat, you just don’t feel full or satisfied. You might find yourself snacking on nutrient-poor carbs (potato chips, cookies, cereal, bread...).  Even worse, reduced sleep affects insulin sensitivity, possibly causing cravings for carbohydrates and making you more prone to developing Type II Diabetes.

Sleep Do’s & Don’t’s

Start your day with a vitamin B complex. Whole grains, such as brown rice and raw leafy greens like spinach are rich natural sources of B vitamins. Consult your physician before taking B vitamin supplements.

Add Magnesium. Known as the “anti-stress” mineral, magnesium helps to relax your muscles and calm the nervous system. Magnesium is found in nuts, greens, and whole grains. Once again, consult your physician about taking any supplements.

Talk Turkey. To relax or sleep, eat foods that are rich in L-tryptophan, such as turkey or dairy products. L-tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, a brain chemical that induces sleep.

Use caffeine strategically. If you’re a caffeine user, keep in mind that consuming large amounts of caffeine during the day can impact your sleep quality. Limit coffee consumption to three cups within a 24-hour period, and tea (including green tea) to five cups a day. Caffeine is not a stimulant; but rather, it blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter that indicates when you’re fatigued.  Caffeine over-stresses the adrenal glands and the endocrine system, contributing to adrenal fatigue (“burn out”). Even though caffeine may make you feel more alert in the short-term, in the long-term it may disrupt the production of the melatonin you need to get a sound sleep.

Foods to avoid:

  • Avoid foods and drinks (such as soft drinks and juice) that are high in simple sugars within a couple of hours before bed. Simple sugars raise insulin and contribute to fat storage. The sugars in these foods may reach the blood stream just as you have drifted off to sleep and may interfere with a restful sleep.
  • Foods known to cause gas can disrupt your sleep as they move through digestive system. Beans, beans good for the heart but bad for a bedtime snack!                                                           
  • Alcohol consumed within two hours of sleep can interfere with the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep, causing fatigue the next day.
  • Additionally, since digestion uses a great deal of energy, it is probably best not to eat a large meal within two hours of going to bed. 

So sleep well, savor satiety, and use that extra energy to go for your personal best at your next Arc Trainer workout!