Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep.
I’m sure by now you’ve had someone tell you that not getting enough sleep could be slowing down your weight loss efforts.
I’ve heard this a couple times myself, in the news, on the radio, and most recently, while eaves dropping on a conversation while sitting on a patio at Starbucks (I know its rude, but I can’t help it. The minute someone starts talking about nutrition or weight loss, my ears go into super human radar mode…)
The idea that sleep can affect fat loss sounds pretty far fetched, but there is research to support this theory.
A 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation reports that, on average, Americans sleep 6.9 hours per night. This data is almost a decade old, so I’m willing to bet this number is even lower for many of us. Possibly approaching the 5 or 6-hour per night mark.
This is a far cry from the 8-10 hours that is typically recommended.
Of course, with this little tidbit of information researchers have gone into overdrive examining intricate relationships between sleep and hormones like Leptin and Grehlin, hoping to find some complicated metabolic process to explain the connection between sleep and weight.
While I am sure they will find a link, I have a much simpler explanation.
While we are awake we spend almost every hour in the fed state. Most of us are constantly eating little meals from the minute we wake up until we finally go to sleep. Because of this, the simple math suggests that the longer we are awake, the more time we spend eating.
Staying up a little later means eating your last meal a little later, and getting up a little earlier means eating breakfast just a little bit earlier.
If you are having a snack and then going to bed at midnight, only to get up at 5:30 to grab a bite before starting to get ready for work, you may be spending a full 22 hours in the fed state and only 2 hours in the fasted state, depending on the size of your last meal.
Sleep experts recommend the following: Go to bed when you are tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clock allowed).
Now, I’m not going to suggest this approach for two reasons. Firstly, it would make me a giant hypocrite (I’m writing you this email at 11:30 at night) and secondly, I’m pretty sure that following these recommendations would get some people fired from their job pretty quickly.
So here’s my take:
It is a common nutrition ritual to avoid eating after a certain time at night. Many people don’t eat after 7 or 8 pm at night as a way to cut back on their calorie intake. Whenever I find myself in the kitchen late at night (anytime later than 10 pm), I don’t ask myself ‘should I be eating?’ I ask myself ‘Should I be awake?’.
In other words, more often than not, ‘going to bed’ is the best cure for late night snacking .
You can also add the ritual of not eating BEFORE a certain time in the morning.
So instead of eating as soon as you wake up, why not push it back, even just a little. Start your day with a big glass of water, and take some time to figure out IF you are hungry, and what you are hungry for.
Combine the practice of not eating after a certain hour at night, with not eating before a certain hour in the morning and you can slowly start restoring your body’s balance between periods of being fed and being fasted.
In my opinion this one little ritual may help prevent the weight gain that is associated with lack of sleep.