Give Yourself a Good Night’s Sleep: This Could Make or Break Your Weight Loss

For many of us working moms, sleep is a thing that other people have. For the first years of your child’s life, you forget what a good night’s sleep feels like. Non-moms talk about their eight hours a night, and you woozily try to remember the last time you got eight consecutive hours of shuteye.

Your kids’ routines are artfully designed and carried out with military precision — the downtime, the bath, the story, the no-nonsense curfew. So why aren’t you giving yourself the same care?

You know from putting your kids to bed, night after night, that sleep is vital. It helps restore our body chemistry, preserve our emotional well-being, and reboot our immune system. We simply can’t function without it.

Amidst these health benefits, a lack of sleep is especially important if you’re trying to lose weight. Your lack of sleep could actually be making you take in more calories during the day and causing you to gain weight. That means it’s time to sort out your sleep habits.

The Science behind Sleep

There are two hormones associated with sleep that influence weight patterns: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that lets your body know you’re hungry. It boosts your appetite and increases fat production. Leptin, on the other hand, lets you know when you’re full. Leptin levels are high when you sleep, suppressing your desire to eat.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your ghrelin levels increase the next day, causing you to be hungry. At the same time, leptin levels decrease, leaving you feeling unsatisfied. You see where I’m going with this.

A study by Stanford University showed that those who slept less than eight hours a night not only had lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, but they also had a higher level of body fat. Those who slept the fewest hours per night weighed the most. These results have been repeated again and again in research.

How to Start Sleeping Well

On a good day, I wake up at 6:08 a.m. That’s if neither of my kids has woken up during the night. To give myself the best chance for a good night’s sleep, I’ve learned to force myself to stop everything by 9:00 p.m. and be in bed by 9:30 p.m. This way, I give myself the winding-down time I give my kids. And if one of them wakes up at 3 a.m., I’ve still had five and a half hours of consecutive sleep and feel energized.

By getting a good night’s sleep, I find I am much more efficient and faster at work. I organize my thoughts more clearly, and I enjoy my interactions more. I also crave carbohydrates less and have the energy to work out.

Of course, you’ll need to find your own routine, but here are some simple things that should always be part of your sleep schedule (and they might resemble your little one’s schedule):

  • Be consistent. Keep the same schedule, whether it’s a weekday or the weekend. Your body will soon get used to its new sleep/wake cycle.
  • Eat and drink right. Try to eat a big meal within three or four hours of sleep; if you’re a coffee or tea drinker, try to limit your caffeine intake to morning or early afternoon hours.
  • De-tech. Avoid engaging with the television or electronics right before bedtime. Let your eyes and brain unwind; the light from these devices triggers your brain to think it’s daytime.
  • Relax. Engage in relaxing activities right before bed so it’s easier to transition to sleep. Try taking a warm bath and reading a book rather than watching the news.

Using these simple steps, you’ll find you’re more energized for your busy schedule and in better control of your weight. Give yourself the best chance to get a good night’s sleep by treating yourself like you treat your kids — meeting your own sleep needs means you’ll be able to meet their needs.

 

Dr. Sandra Gelbard, M.D., is the Chief Medical Advisor of Selvera, a provider of personalized weight management solutions. Led by a team of experts in nutrition, activity, and lifestyle, Selvera works one-on-one with each client to tailor a unique program focused on establishing healthy living habits that can lead to a lifetime of weight management success.

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