If you’re tired of lugging around extra kilos,the problem could be that you’re just plain tired.
SO YOU’RE FEELING TOTALLY WHACKED-OUT after a long day at work and a patchy sleep the night before. You head to the kitchen and what do you do Start prepping the veg for a dinner from scratch, or sling a ready meal in the micro wave? Bet we can guess.
Most of us have made a poor food choice at some point simply because we’re too tired to do anything else – and our waistlines could be paying the price. Astudy from the US suggests that people who get too little sleep tend to over eat. Volunteers who skimped on sleep packed away, on average, an extra 1250 kilojoules. And women were more susceptible: they ate an average of 1370 more kJs compared to the men’s 1100,and chose fattier foods.
So what’s going on? Sure, if you sleep for five hours or less a night, the fact you’re awake for longer means you have more time to eat. But there’s more to it than that.
Firstly, losing sleep affects your metabolism. Research by Uppsala University in Sweden suggests that it only takes a single night of missed sleep to slow down your in ternal kJ furnace,lowering the energy expenditure for basic bodily functions by five to 20per cent. Having a slower metabolism means that you have less energy to burn off kilojoules.“So, when you add that to a tired person’s tendency to overeat and choose bad food, the body stands no chance of burning off the kilojoules,” explains nutritionist Nicola Shubrook.
So why do we overeat when we’ve missed sleep? It could be down to two appetite-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin.“These work as checks and balances to our hunger: ghrelin stimulates our appetite, while leptin tells the brain we are full, ”says Shubrook. “Too little sleep has been shown to set the balance off kilter: it increases our levels of ghrelin, making us crave food, and drives down leptin, meaning we feel less satisfied when we do eat. Thiscombo is aone-way ticket to weight gain.”
Disrupted sleep can also increase insulin resistance, making your system less effective at lowering blood sugars. “It also raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases our blood sugars,” adds Shubrook. More cortisol equals more blood sugar, and less effective insulin means the body struggles to break it down–adding up to a higher likelihood of fat retention and anincreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
So, a good night’s sleep could be the key to maintaining a healthy weight, and to make sure you get your forty winks, you need to raise level soft he sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. “Melatonin comes from serotonin, which is a hormone produced by the pineal gland–alight-sensitiv estructure in the brain. As the day gets darker, the pineal gland starts to convert serotonin into melatonin and ready us for sleep,” says Shubrook. Your mission? To maximise your melatonin levels for a better kip. Here’s a few tricks to add to your sleep routine..
Balance blood sugars: Try to eat little and often throughout the day to keep your blood and brain supplied with sleep-promoting nutrients. “Otherwise, levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline increase as they try to raise your blood sugar, which can keep you awake,” says Shubrook.
Boost your serotonin: This calming hormone is converted from tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, red meat, dairy products, banana, soya beans, tuna and shellfish. Focusing on these foods is a must, because, “Without serotonin, your body can’t make melatonin,” Shubrook says. Complex carbs – in wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and oats – help to boost serotonin and can have a soothing effect.
Switch off: Your brain needs time to unwind and, while television might seem relaxing, the effect of the flickering screen and the light it emits messes with your serotonin-producing pineal gland.
Get plenty of magnesium: It’s not just for achy muscles! “Magnesium is involved in serotonin production and controlling your insulin levels,” says Shubrook. You can dish up a dose of magnesium from dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale, as well as legumes, nuts, seeds and brown rice.
De-stress and defuse: Worries keeping you up at night? Put a notepad by your bed to write down the stuff that’s playing on your mind, or sip on a cup of chamomile tea before you hit the hay to help you relax.
Check for allergies: “It’s important to rule out any food allergies, as conditions likereflux, asthma or indigestion can interfere with sleep,” says Shubrook. “They’re often caused by allergic reactions to certain foods, such as dairy or wheat.”
Turn out the lights: A small amount of light can affect your sleep, so make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. If you struggle to get up in the mornings, invest in a wake-up light (check out wakeupbright.com.au)–it’ll stir you with a gradual brightening light that’s designed to reset your sleep-wake cycle.