Recently, one of my friends, who had been eating healthy and exercising regularly, was struggling to lose weight. He was often eating more frequently or larger quantities than would support weight loss or maintenance. Typically, when a person is eating clean foods and their body is not getting mixed signals from processed foods and sugar, they will naturally crave the right foods in the right quantities, but that was not happening in this case. We had to look at other things besides food and exercise. Though he was in bed over 7 hours a night, he was actually logging only 5 ½ or 6 hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep causes an imbalance in both physiological and emotional factors, which can lead to overeating or eating the wrong foods.
When we are tired, it may cause us to be more irritable or sensitive, or just feeling a lack of energy. It makes sense that we would gravitate toward quick energy foods, such as candy bar or a soda. On the physiological side, lack of sleep has an effect on our hormones. There are two hormones that control our "go and stop" eating signals. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells us to eat and leptin tells us when to stop eating. When you are lacking sleep, you have more ghrelin and less leptin. Lack of sleep disrupts circadian rhythms, which can lead to inefficient body regulation of energy balance and metabolism. Research has shown that those who sleep less than 5 hours weigh 5 pounds more than those who are getting more than 7 hours of sleep. Weight gain tends to increase more quickly in those who get 5 hours or less.
What can you do to help your sleep? First and foremost, know that you need enough sleep so your body can properly function. Schedule enough time in your day to get the 7-8 hours of sleep that most people need. Pay attention to your stress levels, stress may be causing you to not get enough sleep, but not getting enough sleep can also cause stress.
If you are getting to bed early enough to allow yourself the time for a good night sleep and still are not sleeping well, try a few of these things:
It takes 8-14 hours for caffeine to get out of your system, so avoid caffeine after your morning coffee, or try eliminating it completely, to see if you sleep better and feel more rested when you wake up.
Don't eat 3 hours before you go to bed.
Don't sleep with your electronics on and preferably don't have them in your bedroom.
Exercise helps sleep but if exercise is a regular part of your day, avoid high intensity exercise late in the day.
Develop a sleep ritual; try adding chamomile tea to your ritual, reading, meditation, or gentle yoga.
Control Stress with tools such as meditation, journaling, or exercise.