Okay I’ll be honest here. I am guilty. This world is so work-a-holic driven! There is so much pressure to be a #girlboss, to do it all, yet there are only so many hours in the day!! So what seems to go first every. single. time… sleep!
Sleep deprivation isn’t just about having a night or two without sleep. Sleep deprivation can sneak up on you like a thief in the night. Just cutting back an hour or two each night and then before you know it a week goes by and you start feeling a little off.
For me this is EXACTLY what happens. I think i’m killing it. I’m running fine on 6 hours sleep a night, I’m girl bossing away like a machine and then it creeps up on me. I start losing interest in training, I am not as happy and my appetite goes completely haywire. Most of the time at this stage I do not actually feel tired so I don’t immediately think oh just sleep it off. Most of the time in fact, I think i’m just being lazy – so what does that mean – I beat myself up, go harder, grind more, find time to fit in training ect ect ect. Annnnd i’m sure you can guess what happens next. BOOM it hits me like a train. I am a mess. I am cranky. I am hungry. I am emotional. I am SO BLOODY TIRED.
Anyway my ability to throw a tantrum like a two year old wasn’t the purpose of this post so back on topic.
One thing I have noticed over time is the effect sleep has on appetite and food choices. This is something that I think is so important that you know because if like me, you may not even realise that it is a LACK OF SLEEP that is making you choose unhealthy foods, or eat more than you need. It is not your lack of willpower, it is your FATIGUE. It is your brain crying out for help!!
How does sleep affect your appetite?
On a hormonal level when we haven’t had enough sleep our hormones which regulate appetite change! We have two primary hormones that affect our appetite ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite while leptin suppresses appetite. These hormones usually find their own happy medium balance when we are well rested. However, when we are sleep deprived our bodies produce MORE ghrelin and less leptin (and in these studies sleep deprived was less than 8 hours – barely sleep deprivation in my books!!!).
So what does this do to our appetite? When we haven’t had enough sleep essentially we are waaaay more hungry and way less satisfied by food, so yepp you guessed it, we tend to eat more!
How does sleep affect your cravings?
When you are sleep deprived the reward centre of your brain actually responds more strongly to high calorie foods than when you are rested. What does this mean: when you eat or even see higher calorie, higher carbohydrate, higher sugar foods you actually get more pleasure from them in a sleep deprived state than you would in a well rested state. So that chocolate box on the desk at work is looking 10 times more tempting than it did previously.
This is something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around for so long. Whhhhhyyy when the chocolate box literally means nothing to me every other day, in fact it doesn’t even enter on my radar does it all of a sudden scream at me when I’m tired? Well that is why, our brains reward centre is going absolute bonkas over that chocolate box.
Just to make matters worse. When we are sleep deprived, brain imaging studies have shown that our behaviour control centre of the brain is less active.So not only does that chocolate box look a billion times more tempting than it normally does, your ability to control yourself is also lower. Fabbb. So it is more tempting to us AND we have less ability to control our behaviour. Not a great combo if you are trying to eat healthy!
So how much sleep do we need to prevent this?!
This is individual, some people find they can run quite well on less sleep. In general the research states that for OPTIMAL health we should be getting between 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Don’t forget though it’s not just about how much sleep if you have having 9 hours of crapppy quality sleep you will still get the effects of sleep deprivation. Aim for 8-9 hours of QUALITY sleep. I find that this is even okay if it broken into 6-7 hours sleep overnight plus an hour or so nap in the afternoon.
How to get better sleep?
- Prioritise sleep. Just like you’d prioritise other important events/habits make sleep something you don’t start cutting back on when life gets busy.
- Meditate! Seriously can’t suggest meditation enough
- Lights off – no phone, no computer, no kindles for at least 45 mins before bed
- Get a bedtime routine. Have a little ritual you go through which helps your body wind down. Maybe it is shower, moisturise, meditate and then read. Try keep it consistent each night to let your body know that this means it is wind down time.
- Keep your bedroom for sleep only! No computers/tvs in the bedroom.
- No caffeine after lunch
- Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. Get into bed at that time every day. Make it an appointment with yourself, an appointment with your health. Even if you don’t fall asleep right away get into bed with the lights out.
- Try lavender or essential oils.
- Make you bedroom a total zen zone!
PS If you know someone who would benefit from reading this – don’t forget to share it with them.