Want to Lose Weight? Try Sleeping

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I’ve mentioned the link between weight gain and not getting enough sleep before. If you’re still not convinced, check out the awesome TED Talks by Neuroscientist Russell Foster – Why Do We Sleep?

One startling stat that Foster mentioned: if you sleep 5 hours or less a night, you have a 50% chance of being obese. Yikes!

In the 1950s, the average person slept 8 hours a night. Nowadays we sleep 2-½ hours less. A common result: we do stupid things to stay awake, eating being a big one. I’ve written before about the lack of sleep and our body releasing the hormone ghrelin in large quantities. As Foster puts it, once ghrelin hits the brain, “…the brain says, ‘I need carbohydrates,’ and what it does is seek out [carbs] and particularly sugars.”

Lack of sleep also causes sustained stress, which in turn causes our bodies to release more glucose into circulation. Over time, we become glucose intolerant, causing our bodies to produce even more glucose. This increases the chances of contracting Type 2 Diabetes.

Peekabu isn't sleep deprived. Are you?

Peekabu isn’t sleep deprived. Are you?

Are You Sleep Deprived?

  • Do you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning?
  • Are you taking a long time to get up (think snooze button)?
  • Do you need lots of caffeine in the morning to get going?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above then you’re deprived.

How To Get Your 8 Hours
Foster’s solution to getting a good night’s sleep is something we’ve all heard, yet I still have a hard time doing.

  • Keep your bedroom dark and slightly cool
  • Reduce light exposure 30 minutes before bed
  • Turn off mobile phones, TV, tables, and computers
  • No caffeine after lunch

My bedroom isn’t too bad. I just need the animals to stay off the bed, as they seem to prefer snuggling on top of me.

As for no caffeine after lunch, that starts tomorrow (I’m currently brewing some now and can’t waste it).

However, I’m still a slave to turning on the bathroom light to brush my teeth right before bed. Bad move! Our bright bathroom light stimulates the brain. I guess it’s time to start flossing and brushing 2 hours before bed. Another incentive not to eat late!

Blue vs. Red Light
My habit of playing with my iPad before bed is messing with my sleep-wake cycle.

Visible light is made up of wavelengths which our eyes see as color. Our biological clocks evolved to wake us up during the day and make us sleepy when light starts to fade.

Electronic screens emit light that fall into the blue (bright sunny day) spectrum. Evening exposure to blue light via smart devices prohibits melatonin (the sleep hormone) production, delaying sleep for at least an hour or more. In the evening, the red spectrum is best for winding down.

So does that mean I need to disconnect completely?

Sure enough, there’s an app for that — f.lux.

F.lux is freeware that alters the color spectrum of smart devices. As the day goes on, your screen mimics sunlight based on your time zone. So your screen moves through the color spectrum — from blue (day) to red (night)– matching the light in your natural environment (i.e., the position of the sun).

While I’m experimenting with f.lux this week, I still need to limit my tablet use in the evenings. A challenge for sure, but one I’m up for.

“Sleep Is God. Go Worship”
I’m on Day 12 of my Primal Challenge and the sleep portion still alludes me. But after this TED Talks, I’m determined to not treat sleep like the enemy.

As author Jim Butcher wrote, “Sleep is God. Go worship.” I intend to do so.


4 thoughts on “Want to Lose Weight? Try Sleeping

  1. Pingback: Stress And Insomnia: Week 5 Weigh-In: – insomnia

  2. Pingback: 10 Reasons I’ve Lost 140 Pounds And Kept It Off | Dot to Trot

  3. Sleep is such an issue for me. I do most of the things on that list (I don’t always reduce the light exposure 30 minutes in advance) but I still have difficulty with sleep and always feel awful when I get up. And, I need my large glass of iced green tea to get going. A big part of it for me, though, is that I am a classic owl. I gain energy as the day goes on. I’m often most productive late at night. This is one area I really would like to improve on….

    • I know the feeling. I’ve been a night owl my whole life. I’m getting better at it. I use to sleep 4-5 hrs a night and of course I gained a lot of weight. But I’m now 5.5-6.5 hrs. Shooting for 7.

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