People generally associate weight gain as a result of a lack of exercise or from every day unhealthy eating habits. What most people tend to forget is that even just one sleepless night can have a major impact on your mind and body’s health. Which is why it is so important to prioritize healthy sleeping into your daily life. Believe it or not, but quality and consistent sleep actually can help you achieve your fitness goals.
As a mother, I’ve had many sleepless nights over the past 5 years. I am also a diehard fitness and healthy food enthusiast, so I can definitely spot a correlation between just one sleepless night and my appetite the next day. I even feel bloated. This cycle has happened to me quite a bit – I consecutively get a good night’s sleep, nail my workout schedule, then I get a bad night of sleep. It really sets me back from my cozy healthy and fit routine.
“A fitness journey actually feels more like trying to climb a mountain. Only to fall backwards from time to time. Then you have to get back up and keep climbing over and over and over again without ever reaching the top because fitness journeys never end.”
A Typical day of how I Feel when I am Sleep Deprived
I wake up restless. Whether my alarm is going off at 4:20 a.m. to head to the gym or if I am taking the day off from working out and my kids end up being my alarm clock, I wake up immediately tired and have to peel myself out of bed. Although, I have to say, if I do head to the gym, even after a bad night’s rest, my energy will bounce back slightly throughout the day. I almost feel better with less sleep and working out than I do sleeping in later and skipping my morning working out.
I want to eat more food than usual. I am pretty basic when it comes to breakfast. I usually eat the same thing every day. I know I should be better at mixing it up, but my breakfast routine just makes me happy. So I keep it because sometimes happiness trumps “what you should be doing.”
Although, on a day when I am sleep deprived, I always want to eat more food than I usually do. And I just want to eat crap because junk food makes me feel better when I’m super tired. Plus, it takes less work to prepare. Luckily, I have good self control when it comes to food. So, I am pretty good at not giving in very often, but I still have to battle the hunger signals that linger with me all day. I mean literally ALL DAY! They don’t seem to go away until I am rested again either.
I never feel full no matter how much I eat. Even if I eat a well-balanced and protein packed meal, I still end up hungry again. It happens very quickly too. It seems to happen about 30-45 minutes after I eat, boom I’m hungry again already. Sometimes I give in and snack on something. If I haven’t had a cheat day in a long time, I will totally give in to a meal I normally wouldn’t eat and just say screw it. But I do it knowing that I am going to have to work harder later to burn it off.
I want to lay around as much as humanly possible. At heart, I am a busy bee. I like to wake up early, crank out an amazing work out and then stay busy all day long, almost every day (yes, weekends too). But don’t worry, I do mix in some down time throughout the day. But if I am lacking sleep, I kind of become a “couch bum.” I usually can snap myself out of it and am able to get myself moving again. When I do start moving, the energy of my whole day can shift back up quickly but is never quite the same as when I’m well rested.
I half-ass everything. You name it – workouts, household duties, work, spending time with family or friends… I will give it very little effort. I am basically only counting the minutes until I can go back to bed. I basically feel like I am slowly dying off throughout the course of the day – but I always make a plan to make up for lost time the following day.
I crave sugar. My body and mind are like “Sugar, sugar, sugar. I’m tired, I need energy. Feed me sugar.” Most of the time I don’t give in. The hunger doesn’t go away though. If I do give in and make cookies or have some ice cream, it always seems to take me an extra day or two to recover from my cravings. With enough trial and error, I’ve realized it’s not worth it anymore because sugar cravings pull you under.
“Can you imagine the impact sleep deprivation has on a mom who hasn’t sleep well for years? It could possibly be the reason that stubborn weight you are always trying to lose doesn’t budge, even while you are still eating well and exercising regularly.”
Become your own Problem Solver and Soul Search to Improve your Sleeping Habits
Start becoming aware of your weight and sleeping patterns. No need to keep a sleep log or become obsessed about it or anything, but when you are hitting a weight plateau, it’s important to try and eliminate the cause, right? You might actually end up realizing that you are eating more calories than you thought or perhaps you are eating too many carbs and not getting enough protein into your daily diet. Or you finally realize that you’re not getting enough sleep and your hormones are off, which is causing you to eat more throughout the day.
Don’t over complicate it, just don’t be afraid to try and eliminate the cause. And don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself either. If your 7 month old baby is a terrible sleeper and you can’t get enough rest, do what you can now and tackle your weight goals when you are ready and rested.
My Sleepless Nights Story
My sleepless nights started while I was still pregnant with my first born. Near the end of my pregnancy, I was super uncomfortable laying in bed, so I tossed and turned quite frequently. Plus, my husband snores, so a good night’s rest wasn’t in the cards for me very often.
Needless to say, I was already exhausted before my baby was even born, due to a lack of consistent sleep. Luckily, she ended up sleeping through the night when she was 2 months old and today she continues to sleep 12 hours a night. Thank goodness I lucked out there.
Then my second pregnancy happened. I slept better this time around but had some sleepless nights here and there. They usually occurred when my older daughter was sick, peed the bed or whenever when we were traveling.
Then my youngest daughter was born, who was a terrible sleeper from the second she was born. Not only did she not sleep well until she was almost 10 months old, but this time I also had my older daughter to attend to when she was sick or when would lose her sock in her sheets and cry for mom to help her find it. Needless to say, I am always here to the rescue for both of my kids 24/7.
Today I finally sleep well again. I sleep much better now that my kids are 2 and 4 years old. I would say that both of my kids are now sleeping a regular 11-12 hours per night. Unless of course, they are sick or if we brave it up to travel somewhere. My husband also has a sleep machine to help his sleep apnea, so my current sleeping status has been the best it has been since before my first child was born.
Every now and again I still do have a sleepless night. It usually occurs like clockwork. There might be a lot on mind from expanding my businesses or if one of my kids gets sick, I attend to them and then struggle to fall back asleep if it’s close to my early wake up time. Laying up at night has to be one of the worst feelings in the world.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at how a Lack of Sleep Affects the Health of the Mind & Body
- Changes how your cells respond to insulin. According to a study from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a single night of sleep deprivation can cause as much insulin resistance as it would if you were to stay on a high fat diet for 6 months. Insulin resistance happens when the body does not use insulin efficiently to be able to carry glucose from the blood to the cells. It is also a characteristic of both Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Yikes!
- Affects many different hormone levels. According to Medscape, there are multiple hormones affected by sleep deprivation. We often hear about the hormone cortisol, which is our stress related hormone. When we fail to get adequate sleep, our cortisol levels surge leaving us feel on edge all day long. Leptin is another hormone found in our fat cells. It signals suppressing appetite messages to the brain. When our leptin levels drop, it leaves us feeling hungry. So when we don’t sleep well, our appetite is roaring. Another hormone called ghrelin, secretes in the stomach and is responsible for stimulating your appetite. When these levels rise, it leads to increased hunger (especially high carbohydrate based foods). A combination of all our hormone imbalances leads to poor health, that’s for sure.
- Never feeling full and satisfied. Since your hormones are all out of whack, so is your appetite. And when your normal hormone levels are disrupted, it triggers hunger to be released randomly throughout the day, leaving you feeling hungry all day long. Plus, when your body doesn’t get enough rest, it kind of goes into survival mode, signally the body that it should keeping fueling itself, all due to the lack of rest you are experiencing. No wonder I feel the way I do after a bad night’s rest.
- Impairs cognitive functioning. Let’s put it this way, a lot of your cognitive activity levels are functioning at a very low rate when you are sleep deprived. Major areas that are affected are your visuo-spatial attention rates, entire auditory system, slower reaction times, increasing rates of vigilance, perception errors, impaired short and long term memory and an inability to focus. Ahhh… so that’s why it’s hard to drive a car when you are tired.
- Brain and body doesn’t get fully restored. Your body does a lot while you sleep. For example, your hormones shift into calm state to help restore your body and mind after a trying day. It is almost like they both are wiped squeaky clean for a new days work. Your organs are also working hard, breaking down and restoring energy and flushing out our toxins. There are also many areas of the brain are processing, regulating and storing information. So let’s just say, sleep is so freaking important to the overall health of your body and mind.
- Reduced Energy. Humans are basically programmed to rest at night and to be active during the day. Well, if the opposite happens and you become more active at night, well then your cortisol levels get all out of sync, which causes fatigue the next day or quite possibly long term. Ugh, being a mom is so rough sometimes.
The Heart of the Matter is to Establish & Maintain a Regular Sleep Routine
Sleep deprivation is a lifestyle to some, especially for many new and lifelong mothers. It can almost become a norm to many people, which is so unfortunate. While there isn’t a magical cure to overcome sleep disorders, still do what you can to help better your situation. The first step is to become aware of your habits. The next step, admit your short comings. It’s okay to not be perfect. Finally, seek change. Switch things up until you find a grove that works best for you.
If your kids wake up before the sun comes up, maybe it is time for you to go to bed a little after they do. If you have a hard time getting up in the morning, maybe it’s time to start going to bed a little earlier. It all takes dedication and persistence to rebuild a bed time routine, but it can be done over time.
My a Little too Late Weight Loss “AH-HA Moment”
I am absolutely no expert on this topic, but I like to speak from my own experiences because there is definitely a lot of truth within our lived experiences, which is why I want to share this with you.
I gained 51 pounds during my pregnancy with my first born. I lost all 51 pounds in about 8 months after my daughter was born. I never hit a plateau while losing the weight either. From what I can remember, the first couple months were slow to start getting the weight off, but then it just melted off. And now that I look back, I didn’t sleep much during the first 2 months after my daughter was born. She started sleeping 12 hours a night at about 2 months old and ever since then, she has been a great sleeper. Since I was sleeping good, I had more energy and a healthier appetite to help me lose the weight quickly.
During my second pregnancy, I gained 32 pounds. I lost the first 25 pounds very quickly because I swear I only took like 3 days off from the gym including the day we went to the hospital, the next day at the hospital and then the following day when we first got home form the hospital. Other than those days, I was still exercising almost every day.
Then my daughter hit a sleep regression at 4 months and it didn’t end until she was almost 10 months old. As I look back, I was working out so freaking hard, like 5-6 days a week. I was doing everything right. I had a personal trainer. I also worked in a large gym (hello free access!) with endless resources and was eating super healthy. But there were two things I was doing that were holding me back – sleep deprivation and constantly eating (healthy) foods all day long. Even though I was eating healthy, I was still overeating and my calorie intake was off and I couldn’t really control it.
It totally makes sense to me now, but looking back, I can remember feeling so defeated because I was doing everything spot on and working so hard with no results. I would fluctuate 5-7 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. But finally, once my daughter started sleeping through the night- the weight came off quickly! It was all because I was eating less and sleeping more. Basically, my hormones were back in balance again.
So don’t forget to take care of yourself during the day time and also at night while trying to smashing your weight goals. And don’t forget, hitting your body and weight goals are more than just your eating and exercise habits. It’s also maintained from your sleeping habits as well.
Did you learn something from this article? Check out more blog posts from The Living Fit Blog today.