Happy Spring! It’s that time of year when you inevitably start thinking about swimsuit season and your beach bod, or lack thereof. If you’re not in the best shape of your life, you’re not alone. Did you know that 70% of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight or obese? (1). There are some obvious reasons for this like the poor quality of the standard American diet (aka S.A.D.) and general lack of exercise and movement. But there is another big issue here that is often failed to be addressed: chronic lack of sleep.
I’ve had countless patients come to see me for weight loss. All of the other doctors they have seen tell them they need to exercise more and eat less. They’ve tried it. It just isn’t working for them. We review their diet and exercise, and sure enough, they appear to be doing "everything right”. Then like any good functional medicine practitioner would, I dive a little deeper into other aspects of their health. And what do I find? They are severely sleep deprived.
So what happens when my weight loss patients, who are doing everything right, start to get more sleep? Well, they start to lose weight of course. I know it isn’t a sexy answer, but it’s effective. It’s not a new fad diet, weight loss pill, or hip workout class. It’s sleep. Get yours.
Sleep deprivation is considered less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. Chronic sleep deprivation is a relatively new phenomenon that has developed over the last 20-30 years. According to the CDC at least 1 in 3 Americans aren't getting enough sleep on a consistent basis (2).
At this point you might be asking, how does lack of sleep make weight loss difficult? There is a hefty amount of research correlating sleep deprivation with obesity and diabetes. Let me break it down for you.
There are three mechanisms of action that lead to weight gain as a result of sleep deprivation. The first is increased appetite which means eating more. The second is decreased energy expenditure. The third is altered glucose (blood sugar) metabolism which leads to insulin resistance and weight gain. Essentially, lack of sleep causes a trifecta of inefficient sugar metabolism, an increase in food intake and a decrease in calorie burning which together equal weight gain (3).
If you don’t have enough time to sleep, make time. Evaluate where your free time is spent. Are you watching TV or on social media? How are these serving you? Think about how you can find some extra time in your day and sleep at least 7 hours. Trust me you will be more efficient and productive with your waking hours.
If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, here are a few tips to help put your mind and body in the right state for sleep:
Meditate before bed. I like the Calm app Deep Sleep meditation, but I’m sure there are a ton of great free sleep meditations on youTube.
Have a cup of sleep tea 30-60 minutes before bed. Traditional Medicinals brand makes great organic tea blends, and you can find them at most grocery stores. I recommend trying 2 tea bags per cup of tea to make it more potent.
Don’t drink caffeine after 11am. Caffeine can still affect your sleep even if you drink it hours before bedtime.
Test your cortisol levels throughout the day and night. This test can give you a better picture of your circadian rhythm and may be the cause you can't fall asleep or wake up in the night. I can order this for you.
Do you have any tips or habits that help you get more sleep? Leave me a comment below!