How sleep impacts on your eating habits & weight loss

There isn’t a pregnant women or new mom who wouldn’t like more sleep, but did you know that sleep (along with our body clock) regulates our metabolism? The list of benefits that sleep brings is pretty extensive and in nutritional terms it includes helping us to:

  • regulate appetite, hunger and satiety; 
  • lose fat; and
  • gain muscle.

Lack of quality sleep raises our cortisol (stress hormone) levels, it impairs our ability to regulate blood sugar, it decreases the hormone that helps us to feel full after eating and increases the hormone that makes you feel hungry.

Combined with research that suggests that our preference for sweet tasting things increases throughout the day and peaks at night (sound familiar?) this is a recipe for disaster.

I know that how much sleep you get is often out of your control, but let me pose these questions to you.

(1) Do you prioritise sleep? What do you do when you’re tired at the end of the evening? Do you have an early night or make sure you go to bed at a sensible time? Or do you often stay up doing jobs that could wait, watching something random on the tele that you’re not all that bothered about or mooching through posts on your phone perhaps? (There’s no judgment here if you do!)

(2) Do you have a sleep routine? It’s something we tend to focus on our for our children, but not for ourselves and there’s huge merit in it. Whilst we can’t guarantee how much sleep we’ll actually get, having a good sleep routine massively increases your chances of getting more quality sleep.

So here are a few things for you to consider trying:

  • The light that comes from a smartphone is on the same wavelength as the sun. Waking yourself up before bedtime is definitely not helping! Switch those phones off an hour or two before bed.
  • Light and dark cycles keep our circadian rhythm in check, so make your bedroom dark at bedtime.
  • For those of you on maternity leave (and anyone else who can fit one in), don’t underestimate the importance of a good daytime nap. There’s a reason that many cultures around the world where people often live to be a ripe old age have this as commonplace!
  • Take a shower or bath before bed as it helps to cool your core temperature which is required for sleep.
  • Brain dump everything that’s in your head into a diary / journal / notepad so your brain can let it go and not worry about you forgetting it.
  • Caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours, so if you drink tea or coffee, do it in the mornings so it can be out of your system before bedtime
  • Generally try and make your evenings as relaxing as possible (so consider breathing, meditation, aromatherapy, calming music, etc.) and try get things like exercising, eating and generally running around done as early as possible. 
  • And if you need to, set an alarm to tell you when it’s time for bed!

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.And if you’re looking for a fascinating book about sleep I highly recommend “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker…even if it did freak me out about what my lifestyle has done to my life expectancy over the years!

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