Why are you talking to me about sleep when I just want to lose weight?
I know, I know. You want to learn about weight management but here we are, talking about sleep. Why would we spend your time on sleep? Sleep matters!! Why you ask? First, there is a biological component to the sleep/weight connection. Through various hormones, including most famously Leptin and Ghrelin, our bodies work best when they are rested. When we have poor sleep, Leptin (the hormone that tells our body we are "full,") is lower. And, Ghrelin (the "hungry hormone") is higher. In other words, our biology creates a hormonal environment that is counterproductive to weight loss if we do not get enough quality sleep 1.
The behavioral impact of poor sleep matters too. It is no surprise that when you feel rested, you are more likely to get out for that afternoon walk, or to make sure you cook dinner instead of stopping for take out on the way home from a long day at work. Tired people are also more likely to snack throughout the day because food is energy and tired people are always in search of more energy!
Sleep also plays an important role in mood and anxiety. Sleep and depression, for example, have a complex relationship. Depression and anxiety can contribute to sleep disturbance and sleep disturbance may contribute to both. Scientific studies have shown that people with insomnia are 10x or more likely to experience depression compared to those who sleep well 2. And since we know that depressive and anxiety symptoms can contribute to difficulty with weight management, addressing sleep again proves to be key.
The good news about sleep is that there are many behavioral strategies we can work on together to improve your sleep. Some of these changes are simple, others can take more time and adjustments. Sleep hygiene, stimulus control, and relaxation strategies are just a few targets. Sleep hygiene includes simple things like limiting your caffeine after the morning cup of coffee, making sure your bedroom is cool and dark, etc. Stimulus control means changing behaviors like the amount of time you spend in bed doing things besides sleep (watching television, reading, etc.). Together we can find out which target behaviors are going to be most helpful for you and develop a plan to get you sleeping longer and more soundly.
1. Beccuti, G., & Pannain, S. (2011). Sleep and obesity. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 14(4), 402–412.
2. Taylor, D.J., Lichstein, K.L., Durrence, H.H., Reidel, B.W., Bush, A.J. (2005). Epidemiology of insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Sleep, 28(11), 1457-64.