Sleeping Beauty

Do you realize how important sleep is? We have seen it mentioned time and again in this blog, in fitness articles, even TV shows tell you to get enough sleep. Do you know why? I didn’t until very recently.

Last month, after some convincing, I went to see my doctor. I had been working out faithfully for a year and a half and seeing very little results. Last summer I even increased my output by starting one of those beginner running programs and planned on doing the Turkey Trot 5k. Still not much happening except sore shins and a torn meniscus. I felt better, more stamina and was actually running more than walking. Something I had never in my life been able to do, but still the weight was painfully slow in coming off. At work one night, dear hubby was talking with the doctors about me and the consensus was that I should seek medical help. I fit the symptoms of someone with thyroid problems. The weight issues, I had become sensitive to cold, increase in depression and I was tired all the time. It was starting to be scary tired, trying to not fall asleep driving tired. I made the appointment.

I got the same skeptical questioning I have gotten from others, even on here. “Are you sure you aren’t eating more than you say?” “Are you really working out that hard?” He ordered some tests with a side remark that if I really was working out my tests would show it. He called me personally to give me the results which included a 40+ drop in cholesterol! Everything was perfect. He even said  “You are obviously doing what you say.” The extreme tiredness was worrisome though and a sleep study was ordered. I did that 10 days ago and it was miserable! My results came in on Friday and it turns out I have sleep apnea. I now must see a specialist and decide on treatment. Did you know that it is one of the most undiagnosed conditions and can affect anyone? A 6-year-old was being tested the same time I was and people who do not snore, like me, can have it too. (I’m not just saying that either. The test shows if you snore!)

I have learned a lot about how sleep affects weight even if you do not have sleep apnea. A woman needs about 7 hours of sleep for health. Weight changes, especially weight gain, are common sleep deprivation effects. The amount and quality of sleep affects hormone levels, particularly levels of leptin and ghrelin, which in turn affect physiological processes that depend on these hormone levels.

Leptin is a hormone that affects feelings of fullness and satisfaction after a meal, and ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. When people suffer from sleep deprivation, levels of leptin fall and ghrelin levels increase. This means that people end up feeling hungrier and may be less satisfied by eating, causing them to eat more and, consequently, gain weight. . When we don’t have enough sleep, our energy is very low. This can trick the brain into thinking it requires more food to replenish our energy stores. So we tend to eat more. Not only that we tend to crave high energy foods such as ice cream, cakes or sugar laden soft drinks.

To make matters worse, the effects of sleep deprivation can lessen the body’s ability to process glucose efficiently leading to an increased tendency to put on weight. This could also lead to an increased risk of diabetes. Lack of sleep also produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower the metabolic rate which means we burn fewer calories.

That’s not even to mention what sleep deprivation does to our moods and depression levels. If there is a choice between hitting the gym and getting an extra hour of sleep, doctors would tell you to go to bed earlier and get both, but if there was no other option, sleep is more important. Get the sleep and work minutes of exercise into your day. Take the stairs, park farther away, go for a walk after lunch, calf raises while brushing your teeth or squats while putting dishes in the washer. It is very important to get enough sleep so all your other hard work and sacrifice pay off to the highest levels.


Ok, off my soap box and on to how I did this week. Well, my grand plan for diet and exercise while the family was away turned into more meetings than planned, waiting in lines in government buildings in the free time I did have and just not be very motivated. I got in 1, ONE, workout and gave in to temptation a little more than I should have. There was one difference though. Without anyone else to keep me going I found myself falling asleep early and only once did I not go to bed before 10pm. I can not say that it was quality sleep, but it was quantity. I was worried when I had my official weigh-in on Friday and had resigned myself to seeing a bigger number. Not only did I lose the weight I had gained last week, but I lost on top of that for a total of 3.8lbs. Yeah! Crazy I know, but I will take it.

The family is back so are schedules and routines. I hear the gym calling loud and clear for tomorrow morning and I will greet it happily with a little motivation of the scale going down pushing me and the thought that if I can get everything working together, diet, exercise and treatment for quality sleep, I could really see some big changes this year! Sweet Dreams!

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Adams

Posted on January 22, 2012, in Kris and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’ve been working on getting to bed early too. It seems to help when I do. I’m going to give it a bigger effort now, after all your great info here. Nice loss, by the way. Keep it going!

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