Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm So Tired & Why Can't I Stop Eating?

It's no secret that I am an insomniac. I've struggled with sleep, or lack of sleep, for most of my adult life. Recently, I've been noticing a direct correlation between being tired and being hungry. And not just "normal" hungry, more like ravenous.

Take yesterday for example. I was going on just a few hours of sleep and running through my day at warp speed. I had clients at home, clients at the gym, and little clients in B's classroom (I teach the yoga segment on Fridays). Then there was the usual slew of errands...Trader Joe's, the bank, the grocery store, etc. I was also trying to squeeze a workout in and catch up on paperwork. Oh, and the house needed to be cleaned, as well. You get the point.

I noticed early on in the day that I was feeling more tired than usual. Not the yawn-a-few-times-an-hour-and -rub-your-eyes-kind of tired; more like the, "I keep calling this client by the wrong name" and "Oops, was that a stop sign?" kind of tired. Not good.

Sometime in the mid-morning hours, I realized that my high calorie breakfast had worn off completely. I started snacking and continued to be amazed all day long that despite eating high protein, "good" fat items, I was still hungry. I ate nearly a whole avocado and a cup of raw almonds. And that was after a big lunch. "What is going on?" I kept wondering, as my stomach continued to growl.

I decided to do a little research on the rumored connection between weight and sleep habits. And what I found was a bit unsettling.

Sleep deprivation can cause hunger and lower your metabolic rate, even if you are exercising regularly. This is because the body is trying to conserve energy. The hormone "cortisol' is released to counter the stress of being sleep deprived.

If your body is lacking sleep you may not be able to metabolize carbohydrates effectively. This results in more of your food being stored as fat. The level of sugar (glucose) in your blood stream may increase leading not only to weight gain but other diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Also, when the total hours of sleep are decreased, the body spends less time in the deep sleep phase. Deep sleep is where the repair on the body takes place and growth hormone is released. Growth hormone is a protein which regulates fat and muscle proportion. A lack of growth hormone can lead to poor muscle development and an inability to shed fat.

So what's the answer? Obviously, to most people it would be simple: get more sleep. But if you're like me, and you're healthy on all fronts except for the sleeping, the solution is a bit more elusive.

I'd love to sleep more but until I actually do, I'm realizing that I have to be super conscious about what I eat. That is, if I want my clothes to continue to fit.

Knowing this, I had a new mindset for today. Yes, I am still tired. But I did get more sleep last night and feel better, overall, than I did yesterday. I made food selections based on what I know is filling for me: oatmeal with protein powder, sweet potato with walnuts and lentils, whole grain toast with peanut butter, and big pieces of fruit from the farmer's market.

It's also interesting to note that a hangover has the same effect on your body as lack of sleep, in terms of appetite (not that I would know this from personal experience!).

So the takeaway here is this: If you're trying to lose weight or just trying to maintain your current jean size, be cognizant of your level of fatigue and the food choices that you make when you are tired, or for that matter, hungover.

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