Wouldn’t it be great if you could just sleep a few more hours and lose weight? This might actually be true! Have you ever noticed after a night of too little sleep, it’s hard to get motivated to exercise? It’s also a lot easier to just go through a drive through and forget about making dinner. As a mom of young kids, I can identify with this. On the nights that I get fragmented sleep or just not enough hours, it’s a lot easier to grab a cup of coffee than to get myself going for a run. Imagine the toll that this takes on our bodies when we do this over and over again. Sleep plays an important role to restore our bodies both mentally and physically.
There are important appetite regulating hormones that are released while we sleep - ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells us when we are hungry, scientists have found that shorter sleep duration is associated with increased levels of ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells us when our body does and does not need food. Sleep shortage may lower leptin levels which then signals the body to think there is a need for more food. One study demonstrated a 19-26% increase in calories in subjects who slept 4 hours for 6 days in a row.
Have I convinced us all to start sleeping more? I know I need to start going to bed earlier. Here’s a few diet changes you can make that may improve your sleep too:
• Avoid caffeine after 2 pm. Some people claim that caffeine doesn’t effect their sleep. Most research indicates that this is absolutely not true! It may not prevent you from falling asleep but caffeine keeps our body from going into the deep sleep that is especially needed for restoration.
• Use caution with alcohol. Alcohol can result in fragmented sleep and can increase night insomnia.
• Have a light snack before bed but avoid a heavy fat laden meal before bed. Laying down after a big meal increases the likelihood for heartburn or reflux which can interfere with sleeping.
• Have a snack that combined tryptophan and carbohdyrates. Recall a glorious Thanksgiving nap? That was due in part to the tryptophan in the turkey. Combine it with carbohdyrates to help make sure the tryptophan makes it into the brain to help induce sleep. Snack examples: 1/2 turkey sandwich, a glass of milk and a banana, or a carton of low fat yogurt with cereal.