Did you know getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do to ensure you eat well? Why? In short, lack of sleep is a major stressor on your body & causes you to reach for those comfort foods.
Learn more about how sleep (or lack thereof) affects your food choices and how you can get the zzzz’s you need so you can meet your Eating Well goals.
Studies show lack of sleep is associated with overeating in a variety of ways.
For starters, not getting enough sleep means you have more time to think about food and to actually eat it. Logically, this alone is reason enough to make sure you’re not burning the candle at both ends. But there are other reasons most people aren’t aware of. And they have to do with….hormones.
Sleep & the Stress Response
Lack of sleep places stress on the body & the body responds to stress (of any kind) in a variety of ways.
Under stress, our fight/flight/freeze response kicks in. Your brain & body think you need more food to create energy to either fight the tiger, run away from it or freeze in place.
The latter causing muscle tension throughout your body, creating a number of health issues and dis-ease. Not to mention the pain associated with tight muscles pulling bones out of alignment & restricting blood & nerve flow to tissues.
When you’re under stress, your brains also craves those comfort foods that can be quickly converted to energy. Foods high in sugar & fat & low in nutrients. Foods that we all know don’t serve us well.
When the energy from these foods isn’t used quickly, the body then says, “Since I haven’t used this energy right now, I better hang onto it in case I need it again.” I don’t have to tell you how the body stores all this extra energy….
Stress also causes the body to produce cortisol, a hormone that puts a lot of things on hold while ensuring the body survives the current threat.
Cortisol slows our metabolism, digestion, estrogen & progesterone production while telling the body to raise the blood pressure & make sugar so it has the energy to do whatever it needs to do in order to overcome the stressor. Which in this case is to function due to lack of sleep.
Eating Too Close to Bedtime
Eating those high carbohydrate foods too close to bedtime will give you a sugar high. That extra energy in your bloodstream is a signal to your body & brain that it’s not time to go to sleep yet. And after that high, most people tend to crash. While it may be easier to fall asleep at some point in this cycle, you may wake up a few hours later ravenous due to you blood sugar falling too low and so the cycle continues.
Sleep is your body’s time to rest & repair. Yes, some digestion occurs, but it slows considerably. So eating a big meal (or large snack) right before bed can cause indigestion & acid reflux. Which, in turn, causes disrupted sleep. Another way the cycle continues. But there are other hormones sleep affects that directly impact our food intake.
Not getting enough sleep interferes with other hormones too, in particular your hunger hormones. Those chemical messengers that tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. It lowers the fullness hormones while increasing the hunger hormone. This imbalance tends to make you reach for those rich, sweet comfort foods that you’re trying to cut back on. Not exactly what you want when you’re trying to trying to Eat Well.
One therapeutic approach (and one I employ myself) is to try to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. But if you’re not getting enough sleep and your hunger hormones are out of balance, you may find you’re fighting a losing battle.
Wouldn’t it be better to just get more sleep? Easier said than done for many people, especially women in perimenopause & menopause, when their estrogen & progesterone levels aren’t supporting the body like they used to.
Read on for specific strategies you can use to get more sleep as well as how to figure out which strategies to try 1st.
Getting More Zzzzzz’s
There are many strategies you can use to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Some may work for you, while others may not. While I’m just scratching the surface, here’s a few things you can try or get you thinking about what may work for you (or what has worked in the past).
- Plan to get to bed earlier (or get up later) by saying No to other things so you can say Yes to more sleep.
- Make a plan to eat well throughout your day. Planning meals & snacks using real whole food to prevent those blood sugar ups & downs.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark. Your natural sleep hormone (melatonin) kicks in with darkness.
- Go to bed & get up at the same time.
- If your bedtime changes from day to day (like mine does sometimes), then have a routine that signal’s your brain & body, its time to sleep (taking a shower, reading, listening to a guided meditation, journaling, etc) and plan to sleep the same number of hours.
- Move your body more vigorously sometime before supper. Physically tiring your body signals it’s need for rest, repair & rejuvenation – aka sleep.
- Stretch before going to bed to unwind those tense muscles & signal your brain it’s safe to relax & go to sleep.
- Legs up the wall. A great move to do anytime of day to help you sleep better. Click on the link below for more information about it as well as some other helpful tips from my friend Kris at Piece Wellness.
- Piece Wellness Sleep Techniques
- Listen to a guided mediation. Here’s one to try.
- Let Go, Let God & Fall Asleep Peacefully
- Hand over your day (successes, worries & everything else in between) to God so you’re not thinking about them when your head hits the pillow.
- Ask God for a good night’s sleep.
Thoughts to Ponder (Journaling Prompts)
What resonated with you the most about this article? What did the Holy Spirit point out to you? Do you need to find a way to get more sleep? What has worked in the past? Is there something in the above list you want to try? Did you think of something else you want to try?
If you’re looking for a way to eat more real whole food that actually works for you, join us for the FREE Real Whole Food 5-Day Challenge September 26th-30th. Click the link below to register today!
Share with us in the comments what you’re thinking & what you’d like to experiment with. Or what works for you.
And remember to be gentle & treat yourself with kindness if you need to make changes. Changing your sleep and/or eating patterns doesn’t happen overnight. Experiment with 1 or 2 things and take it slow.
Most of all, remember to thank God for beautiful, intelligent body he blessed you with. Thank him for the knowledge & inspiration he empowered you with and the opportunity to glorify him as you enjoy the journey!