Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Skinny on Sleep

I'll just come out and say it, I'm tired and my bed's been missing me. For the past three weeks, I've been waking up at the crack of dawn every Tuesday and Thursday to sweat it up with fitness expert Lacey Stone and her incredibly challenging outdoor boot-camp, 'BootyCamp', on the West Side Highway. And trust me, I've been getting my booty kicked!
It's been an exhilarating experience, but I've definitely noticed a shift in how my body responds when I deprive it of a few extra hours of sleep each night before Booty Camp (I wish I could get into bed by 10 or 10:30pm, but that'd be a miracle). After the first morning of camp, I remember I could barely form a coherent sentence and my memory was shot. Somehow I made it through a long work day without crashing around 4pm...possibly because I made sure I continued to eat properly, despite visions of bagels and brownies runnig through my head (yes, even nutritionists get cravings sometimes!).
I've mentioned the sleep-sugar-scale connection to many of you before, but waking up earlier the past few weeks, has really hammered it home for me. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep disorders specialist, research studies show that sleep deprivation can cause a spike in grehlin, the "go hormone" that tells us it's time to eat, and a significant decrease in leptin, the hormone that signals we're satiated--step away from the plate. A University of Chicago study found that when we're not well-rested all bets are off, our bodies tend to be drawn to high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods like candy, cookies, pastas, breads, chips, donughts, etc. We're sniffing out serotonin wherever we can find it (serotonin's a hormone that releases a calming effect). We think we need a boost in energy, err...sugar, when in actuality, what our body's really craving is just a few extra hours of good solid slumber. To top everything off, chronic sleep deprivation is shown to play a role in obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other serious health problems.
So what's the "skinny on sleep"? Get a good amount each night, at least 7-8 hours on average! You might be pleasantly surprised the next time you step on the scale.

*Two other quick interesting mentions around sleep:
Check out the series that recently aired on 60 Minutes about sleep and weight gain, The Science of Sleep. Super interesting!
If you're looking for more reading material, check out Michael Breus' book, Beauty Sleep. I love the chapter titled, "From Waistlines to Facelines: You are What You Sleep".

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