Trouble Falling Asleep and Weight Gain

by Annie on April 5, 2010 · 2 comments

in Healthy Living,Women's Health

Lately I have been having trouble falling asleep.  I am relying on my old friends, sugar and caffeine, to get me through the work day.  If you are sitting here scratching your head, imagine what I am thinking.  I often brag about sleeping like a log on days when I exercise and here I am – putting on four pounds in the last month because I like the Starbucks combination of sugar and caffeine.

By the way, this is partly the reason why I have not been blogging quite as often because I am a little ashamed of this set back in my pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

With the pregnancy pee stick on my hand, it finally hit me.  Can you guess why I am having trouble falling asleep?  I am anxious that the baby fairy is not sprinkling its magic dust on me.  I know it is only a couple of months, but I always assume that because I exercise and eat healthy that I am as fertile as the next alley cat (why am I comparing myself to a stray cat? I should at least compare myself to a cute fuzzy rabbit).  And of course this self induced anxiety is taking a toll on my weight.

A good night of sleep

When trying to lose weight, have you ever consider getting less sleep because you will burn more calories awake than sleeping?  It seems logical, but it is a false assumption.  A good night of sleep (as in restful 7 hours) actually does more to help with your weight loss goals than staying awake for an extra 2 hours.

In a study following 68,000 women for 16 years found that those who slept less than an average of 7 hours per night put on more weight during middle age than women who slept more than 7 hours.  In the same study, those women who slept only 5 hours a night are more likely to put on 33 pounds or more.

33 pounds?!!  Yikes!  Isn’t it much easier to not gain the 33 pounds to begin with?  I cannot imagine trying to lose my vanity weight plus an additional 33 pounds.  I can either get a good night of sleep or gain 33 pounds.  On paper it sounds like snoozing that extra hour is much easier than losing the weight gain.  But in practice, it is a little harder to do.  Or maybe I just need to convince myself that sleep deprivation is a more sever health concern than eating that microwave dinner for lunch.

Sleep deprivation symptoms

I’ve pull more than my share of all-nighters when I was in college.  Actually I pulled all-nighters to keep my husband company because he was the ultimate procrastinator.  For some silly reason he could always convince me that a day hanging out and a night of study with coffee and Del Taco runs is a fun idea.  Oh wait – I think it is because I love him.

An occasional night of sleep deprivation is no big deal from a metabolic standpoint.  But chronic sleep deprivation is a BIG DEAL.  Chronic sleep deprivation causes hormonal shifts that can ultimately defeats your weight loss goals.  Chronic sleep deprivation symptoms include:

  • increase in cortisol

Ah, the good old stress hormone.  Of course you knew that lack of sleep can lead to an increase in stress for your body.  Chronically elevate cortisol level can encourage your body to hold on to fat (especially in the dangerous belly area) and lead to insulin resistance.  A risk factor for diabetes is insulin resistance.

  • increase in ghrelin

Ghrelin is the “on switch” for appetite.  Sleep deprivation causes your body to produce more of this hormone so you tend to crave and eat more, especially sugary and processed carbs to stay awake, which Starbucks more than adequately supply for me.

  • decrease in leptin

Leptin is the “off switch” for appetite.  I have written about leptin and weight loss in a previous post.  Trust me, we do not want less of this hormone.

How is that going to help my trouble falling asleep problem?

Create a nightly ritual for a better night of sleep.

You can try a warm bath, an herbal tea, or some quiet reading.  Whatever you do, do it every night.  It is a signal for your mind and body that you are winding down for the day.

My husband finds it shocking that it takes me a good 30-40 minutes to get ready for bed.  But I have my routine of brushing, flossing, face washing, and moisturizing.  When I do these things, I know it is time for sleep.

Create a good sleeping environment.

A good sleeping environment should have good window coverings that keep out the street lights and provide some sound insulation from outside noise.  The bedroom should be uncluttered with good ventilation.  It is hard to get a good night of sleep in a stifling room.  Preferably you should not have a TV in the bedroom.

My husband loves it when we travel because he gets to watch TV in bed.  But I hate it because he would inevitably end up having trouble falling asleep.  The next day he is a zombie until I get him to a coffee shop.

You should not do work in a bedroom and never on a bed.

The bedroom should be reserved only for sleeping, resting, and sex.  By making your bedroom a “no work zone” you are consciously telling your subconscious that the bedroom is not associated with work.  When you are in bed, you should not be thinking about work (of course that is easier said than done sometimes, the thinking part. :D  I can never work in bed because it does not provide adequate back support.).

Avoid eating 3 hours prior to going to bed.  Same for exercising.

When you eat, your body is busy trying to digest the food and shuttling the nutrients throughout your body.  It is too busy to wind down enough for you to get a good night of sleep.  Sure sometimes you get really sleepy after eating a large meal, but that is not the quality of sleep you are looking for.  You don’t want the first few hours of sleep shuttling nutrients around; you want your body to be producing quality hormones.  As for exercising, it takes your body a while to re-adjust to your normal temperature.

Consider taking your calcium supplement in the evening.

According to ehow, calcium is a “natural muscle relaxant” so it can help you get a better night of sleep.

Final thoughts on trouble falling asleep

My mom and several other (post-menopausal) friends have been complaining about their failing attempts for a good night of sleep.  Their problem is hormonal that probably needs something more to help.

As for me, I need to let nature work its magic and to stopping thinking about babies.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

Photo by:  peasap.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sagan April 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I’ve always had trouble sleeping, but since school is wrapping up and I”m feeling good with things in my life, I’ve been sleeping a little better lately.

The question I always wonder is… did the stress come first, or did the sleeping problems come first? I can never seem to get to the root of the problem!


asithi April 5, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Sagan – I think the stress comes first for people without hormonal or physical problems. Without any physical problems, it would make sense that stress is causing you to have trouble falling asleep. But if you have physical problems, then physical problems can be the root cause of the lack of sleep. Who knows. This is one of those chicken and egg question. Thanks for the comment.


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