Losing Weight While You Sleep
What kind of coach would ever suggest that you sleep your way to weight loss? This coach! I am confident in saying it is one of the the most important factors in weight loss and overall physical and emotional health.
You must make sleep a priority. I have been militant with my children about their bedtime. They routinely get 9-12 hours of sleep a night. If we are out with friends or family, I leave early to get my kids to bed, and so that I can go to bed shortly after. I may look like a party pooper, but I know my kids will be healthier, and I will be a better Dad, Coach and partner if I get quality sleep. It makes a world of difference in how I perform on a daily basis. Many think that just one or two nights of good sleep a week is not enough.
Chronically sleep deprived people will often feel more tired after a solid 8 hours. You need at least 2-3 weeks of enough sleep to start reaping the huge rewards that go along with it. Not only can you start shedding pounds, you will be far more productive, happier, calm, less reactive, less emotional, less perseverating (recurring negative though patterns), smarter, more motivated, energized and best of all, look younger and more vibrant. After working in the healthcare field for over 20 years, I can see lack of sleep in a person’s face. It’s not just bags under the eyes. It’s in their facial structure too, and I can see it in how they respond to interaction and stress.
Golden States Warriors basketball player Andre Iguodala made sleep a priority after consulting with sleep researcher Arianna Huffington. His play had been suffering, but after making some adjustments his performance skyrocketed. When Iguodala adjusted to a consistent 8 hours of sleep a night, his points per minute went up 29%, his free-throw percentage went up 8.9%, his three point percentage more than doubled, his turnover decreased by 37% per game, and his fouls dropped by 45%! He went on to win the 2015 Finals MVP.
Some trainers and local “celebrity coaches” pride themselves in their late nights getting work done, flying around the world, working out in airports, and saying that their nutrition, supplements, meditation and exercise see them through those times. I call bull! Like many of you have heard me say, you can’t exercise your way out of a poor diet, you cannot skimp on sleep every night and hope to make progress in the gym or life. It will catch up to you. One day you will look in the mirror and realize how you’ve aged.
One poor night sleep turns you into a diabetic. Not permanently. But, for all intents and purposes, your body is physiologically diabetic until you can regulate your insulin and other hormone levels again. What this means is that you lose insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours. This is the mechanism by which people hold onto fat, or store more fat in problem areas (stomach for men, hips and thighs for women). This stress weight caused by insulin dysregulation and excess cortisol (stress hormone), is impossible to lose unless you get quality sleep.
In one study, recurrent sleep deprivation in men increased their preferences for high-calorie foods and their overall calorie intake. In another study, women who slept less than six hours a night were more likely to gain 11 pounds (5 kilograms) compared with women who slept seven hours a night. Other studies have found similar patterns in children and adolescents.
One explanation might be that sleep duration affects hormones regulating hunger — ghrelin and leptin — and stimulates the appetite. Another contributing factor might be that lack of sleep leads to fatigue and results in less physical activity.
Lack of sleep has been strongly linked to all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Only 5% of breast cancers are due to genetics, so that means the rest is due to epigenetic factors (our environment and lifestyle). It is directly linked to premature wrinkling and aging. You may notice bags under your eyes, but what is happening at the cellular level is much worse. Those puffy bags or crows-feet will become permanent and much more visible at an earlier age. Hormone levels are strongly affected which lead to a cascade of events contributing to food cravings, weight gain, emotional disturbances, mood swings, and worsening depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and bi-polar disorder.
Our life span is determined by a few things, but emerging research is showing how telomere length is directly linked to longevity. Every cigarette you smoke, Big Mac you eat, and poor night sleep shortens your telomeres. Telomere (tel-uh-meer) from the Greek telos (end) and meros (part).
Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Without the coating, shoelaces become frayed until they can no longer do their job, just as without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job. Our cells replenish by copying themselves. This happens constantly throughout our lives. Telomeres get shorter each time a cell copies itself, but the important DNA stays intact. Eventually, telomeres get too short to do their job, causing our cells to age and stop functioning properly. Therefore, telomeres act as the aging clock in every cell. Telomere shortening is involved in all aspects of the aging process on a cellular level. Telomere length represents our biological age as opposed to our chronological age.
Many scientific studies have shown a strong connection between short telomeres and cellular aging. For example, the immune system, which normally weakens as we age, is highly sensitive to shortening of telomeres. In addition, a 2007 study found that short telomeres were associated with decreases in bone mineral density in women. In white blood cells, the length of telomeres ranges from 8,000 base pairs in newborns to 3,000 base pairs in adults and as low as 1,500 in elderly people. (An entire chromosome has about 150 million base pairs.) Each time it divides, an average cell loses 30 to 200 base pairs from the ends of its telomeres.
So why did I go into so much detail on genetics? Because, lack of sleep is a stressor to the body, and it’s stressors like this that affect how our genes are expressed. Within us all are a vast amount of genetic switches. You smoke, you switch on the cancer switch. You eat junk food, you turn on the obesity and chronic disease switch. You don’t sleep enough, you turn on an array of switches contributing to health problems.
Chronic insomnia or outright ignorance of the requirement for sleep is rampant in today’s society. Yesterday morning, on my drive to work, I saw three people driving with their eyes closed for much longer than they should be on the highway. (I’ve been extra observant of people’s driving habits since attending a seminar on distracted driving). These sleep deprived people have spiked their stress hormone levels, disturbed insulin sensitivity, and will now drag themselves through an unproductive day with numerous ups and downs in energy, possibly fueled by coffee and sugary foods. Then the few that do exercise think a trip to the gym will make up for it. I would rather someone get their sleep in check before coming to the gym. It’s that important.
Life is a dance between making it happen, and letting it happen. Good sleep hygiene is about letting it happen. In future articles you will learn my sleep rituals and some amazing sleep hacks to guarantee a better nights sleep on the very first night. It takes dedication and willpower, but a few weeks of good sleep is life-changing.
Unabashedly educating you on how you can win in life with your fitness, sleep, diet, and stress management.