Given the amount of stress and sensory stimulation in the world today, nearly everyone has suffered from insomnia at one time or another. Recent statistics indicate that one in four Americans will suffer from insomnia this year, and as many as 10% suffer from it regularly. Sleepless nights are more prevalent with women, and conditions leading to insomnia like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder affect more than 37 million people in the US combined.
Trouble falling asleep at bedtime is called sleep-onset insomnia, whereas difficulty staying asleep and waking up frequently is sleep-maintenance insomnia. Insomnia sometimes has psychological causes such as depression, anxiety, stress or overstimulation of the senses. It can also be triggered by various foods, drinks and medications. Recent reports indicate people with insomnia may have an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, asthma and obesity.
Why Is Sleep Important For Weight Loss?
When looking at the connection between weight loss and sleep, one has to consider the growing body of research that suggests a reduction in sleep is linked to weight gain. Epidemiologic research in adults and children show that sleep restriction causes metabolic and endocrine alterations. More specifically, insomnia leads to decreased glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and leptin levels (a hormone integral to body weight maintenance). It also increases concentrations of cortisol (primary stress hormone) and ghrelin (hunger hormone), which can cause the urge to eat more.
Dietary Changes to Combat Insomnia
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause the brain to be more alert, thereby causing sleeplessness. Likewise, eating food late in the evening can cause your digestive system to wake up, which makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep. We advise to eat dinner at least three hours before bed and to incorporate adequate protein into your diet.
Additional Helpful Tips to Get to Sleep
- Avoid heartburn triggers such as garlic, onions, chocolate, and citrus fruits at dinner.
- Don’t drink any caffeinated beverages a minimum of six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages before bed because while alcohol is a depressant, it can interfere with healthy sleep by causing adrenaline to be released. This disrupts the production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that initiates sleep.
- Try natural herbal remedies such as glycine, L-theanine, passion flower extract and melatonin. These ingredients, especially when combined, can help promote restful sleep (check out our REM4 Supplement).
Other Helpful Remedies
It can be possible to successfully combat insomnia without reliance on prescription sleep-aids. Luckily, a few preventive steps like being consistent with when you fall asleep and avoiding digital devices, can often reduce episodes of insomnia.
If nothing seems to work, consult your physician before taking prescription drugs. Although they may be beneficial, some medications have been associated with an array of side effects, the risk of addiction/dependence and long-term issues.
So does sleep help you lose weight? The answer is yes, but only when you get adequate shuteye consistently, coupled with healthy dietary and lifestyle habits.
Amy Lee, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, Lindora Clinic