I’m excited to kick off the reset in a few weeks with many of you! The group support and accountability is one of the best aspects of this group- it always amazes me.
Making good choices for our health is more complicated than just food. A few months ago, I wrote a post on 7 Reasons Distance Runners Struggle to Lose Weight. One of the pieces I want to expand on is sleep.
It’s on my mind. As a mom to a 3 week old, I’m not getting a whole lot of it these days.
As a culture, we are chronically sleep deprived (and dream deprived). We find ways of dealing with this with stimulants (hello, caffeine and sweets!) in the morning or afternoon and depressants (alcohol, sleep medications) in the evening. Dr. Rubin Naiman considers this the “medicalization” of sleep and calls it dangerously unhealthy.
How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Us?
Lack of sleep has implications for our health on all levels, but I’m going to focus particularly on food cravings, weight management and running performance
These three are all closely connected. When we are sleep deprived, our appetite regulating hormones are suppressed (grehlin and leptin) so we don’t feel full and satisfied as we normally would. Our bodies are looking for quick energy to feel better, so we generally crave sweet foods and processed carbohydrates (cereal, crackers, granola bars, etc). Both of these are broken down into simple sugars in the body that spike our blood sugar and give us an instant pick-me-up, but soon drop off leaving us in a slump again and looking for more carbohydrates and sugar.
(Have you experienced this? It’s the story of my life these days running on broken sleep! I’m drawn to carbohydrates and sugar like crazy.)
Cortisol, the stress hormone, also rises when we are sleep deprived which can cause the body to store more fat and inhibits weight loss. This, plus the combination of poorly regulated appetite hormones and excess sugar can lead to a much more difficult time managing weight. Many studies have been done on this topic and you can read more on sleep loss and the weight connection here.
In terms of running and training, you can run a good race on a few nights of rocky sleep. But constant sleep deprivation will affect your training, recovery and overall performance. This article has more research and details on the running-sleep connection.
Beyond those areas, sleep is essential for strong immunity, mental sharpness and clarity, better mood, improved memory, less inflammation and is associated with a longer lifespan.
Sometimes, sleep is out of our control. I can’t do a whole lot about night time wakings until my baby is a little older and sleeping better. But when it is in your control, tone down the stimulants and depressants to allow your body to find it’s natural rhythms. Turn off the electronics, set up healthy sleep habits, have a regular bedtime routine and attempt to go to bed earlier. It pays off!
How much sleep do you get?
Have you noticed lack of sleep affecting your appetite, cravings and/or training?