Sleep, Health & Hormones

It’s been a little longer than I had hoped to post the second part of how sleep affects your health…and I know you have all been holding your breath! If you remember a couple weeks ago I wrote about how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. You can read that blog here is you missed it.  I wanted to follow up with a few specifics about the hormones and what they do and a few really great tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep.

Here are the three heavy hitting hormones that contribute to weight gain with a lack of sleep.

  • Cortisol-  Cortisol is one of the culprits when sleep deprivation causes weight gain. Cortisol levels increase with decreased sleep – resulting in increase cravings of comfort foods. And I’m not talking about the healthy comfort foods I discussed in that post back in October.
  • Leptin – Leptin is directly responsible for sending you the message that you are full and do not need to eat any more. Sleep deprivation decreases normal levels of Leptin causing you to eat more than you normally would during waking hours… ugh…
  • Ghrelin – I like to think of this one as rhyming with Gremlin. A gremlin that is partially responsible for increased appetite and rises when you don’t get enough sleep.

So, that’s the short version of why you might gain weight if you’re not getting enough sleep.

How Sleep Affects Your Health

Good Sleep = Good Health

6 Tips for Improved Sleep

This short list can improve how quickly you get to sleep, improve the quality of your sleep and help you get back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night.

  • Limit stimulating foods, drinks and activities before bed time. The obvious one is caffeine, but also anything like a scary movie or other activity that will leave you wide awake.
  • Limit alcohol prior to tucking yourself in. Yes, I know it can ‘relax’ you, but more importantly it disrupts a normal healthy sleep cycle (that includes REM sleep) that makes you feel tired even when you got ‘enough’ sleep.
  • Create a ritual – You do it for your kids now do it for yourself. Doing the same type of activities each night trains your body/brain to expect sleep to follow.
  • Create a RELAXING ritual. Reading a book, drinking chamomile tea, milk & honey, meditate, a hot bath  are things that will help facilitate unwinding your brain/body and prepare for quality sleep.
  • Ditch the clock – Don’t ditch the alarm part of the clock! How many times have you woken up in the night, looked at the time and started stressing about it? Turn the clock away so that you can’t see the numbers. This keep your brain from being stimulated to process, think and otherwise ‘wake up’.
  • Lower the temperature in your room and/or house about 60 minutes before you plan to go to bed. The body likes cooler temps for sleeping!

Getting enough sleep is as much a part of good health as exercise, hydration and nutrition. Have you ever had a time in your life when your sleep was all out of whack? What did you do to make it better and did it affect other areas of your life?

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