A Stress-Busting Eating Plan for Combating Sleep Deprivation & Weight Gain

Are you someone who values sleep or do you choose to burn the candle at both ends? Do you think that sleep is a waste of time and sleeping 8 hours a night is a sign of laziness? In today’s fast-paced, over-worked and over-stressed society, more and more of us are choosing to sacrifice our sleep, either out of job-related necessity, screen-time entertainment or for family obligations, but trying to sacrifice sleep for time is likely to back-fire.

According to the National Sleep Foundation:

• 50% of all Americans are sleep deprived

• 60% sleep less than 7 hours per night

• 56% report daytime drowsiness

• 37% of American are so sleepy that it interferes with daily activities,

• 16% of women between the ages of 30-60 sleep less than six hours per night.

Sleep deprivation is the cause of many of our health issues, not to mention it is also a safety issue on our roads (a drowsy driver is as dangerous as a drunken driver).  Keep in mind that sleep deprivation is not the same as sleep disorders.  Sleep deprivation is the result of lack of sleep, whereas a sleep disorder is having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or staying awake.

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Regardless if you are sleep deprived or have disordered sleep patterns, if your body doesn’t get enough sleep, this leads to stress and the negative results are endless.  Here are just a few:

  • Chronic Inflammatory Response:  with lack of sleep, the body senses it is under attack and stimulates a chronic inflammatory response.  This is not an immediate response, but it is the body’s response to protecting itself from injury.  The body sends out white blood cells to clean up the debris, much like when you cut yourself or sprain an ankle—the area becomes inflamed.  When we are sick, this inflammatory response is essential for protecting tissues, but if it is chronic (like with chronic sleep deprivation), over the years it can damage healthy tissues.  A chronic inflammatory response is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis, to name a few.
  • Lower Metabolism:  more immediate effects of lack of sleep, in addition to feeling tired and exhausted, is that you burn fewer calories (decreasing your metabolism), which over time can result in weight gain.  Feeling too tired and exhausted also leads to lack of exercise and activity, which also leads to detrimental health effects, a lower metabolism and weight gain.
  • Hunger:  when you are sleep deprived, your body has trouble efficiently using carbohydrates and the body confuses being tired with being hungry.  As a result, blood sugar rises, causing overproduction of insulin, which also leads to an increase in body fat and weight.  Because lack of sleep is a stressor, the stress hormone cortisol is also produced, causing you to eat more.
  • Reduction in Growth Hormone:  to further complicate the issue, sleep deprivation also leads to a reduction in the growth hormone, a protein that regulates the body’s proportions of fat and muscle.  Even as adults, this protein is necessary to help build muscle mass, which ultimately speeds up the metabolism.  This is very critical, since muscle burns calories and thus with a lack of growth hormone to help build muscle, metabolism is slowed.
  • Low Serotonin Levels:  the brain chemical serotonin enhances a general sense of calm and positive feelings.  This hormone is recharged when the body rests, and thus with a lack of sleep, low levels result in craving the positive mood, as well as craving foods that are rich in carbohydrates (and often full of fat).
  • Forget-fullness:  Between the sixth and eighth hour of sleep, the brain stores everything it learned during the day—habits, actions and skills.  Your memory and learning ability suffer if you don’t get continuous sleep for 8 hours, and all your healthy behaviors you once practiced, often go by the wayside.

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Bottom line:  We need 6 or 7 1/2 hours of sleep for our body to be efficient, reduce stress and prevent weight gain.  Find out HERE, why 6 hours or 7 1/2 hours of sleep is the magical number. Until you are able to uncomplicate your life and sleep more, make sure you are following this stress-busting eating plan to combat sleep deprivation:

Stress-Busting Eating Plan to Combat Sleep Deprivation:

  • Stay hydrated:  An active female requires 8 to 11 cups of water per day and an active male needs approximately 16 cups.
  • Incorporate adequate healthy fats into your diet, like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and healthy nuts like walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans. Also, add flaxseed or chia seed to your smoothies. Don’t be afraid of butter, but do stay away from margarine and other hydrogenated fats and oils.
  • Limit carbohydrates and sugars and include high fiber non-starchy carbohydrates to assure a steady level of blood glucose.
  • Eat protein for muscle repair and growth and spread it out across all your meals.  This also helps with blood sugar stabilization.  Contact me so I can help you determine the optimum amount of protein (and other nutrients) you need, since too much can be as detrimental as too little.
  • Avoid skipping meals, which is often what stressed people do because they do not have time to eat.  Having breakfast, lunch and dinner with some healthy high fat snacks frequently throughout the day is important.  However, a well-planned intermittent fasting diet plan may be appropriate, but again, contact me so I can help you assure its adequacy.
  • Avoid drinking more than one to two cups of coffee per day, since caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you awake, and may also lead to dehydration, causing stress headaches and muscle fatigue (also contributed by a lack of sleep).
  • Eat lots of deeply colored vegetables, favoring carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli, green and red peppers, cauliflower and cabbage, spinach and kale.  These build the blood with nutrients and help combat the negative effects of stress, and provide phytochemicals and antioxidants that fight disease.
  • Find out what nutrients you might be deficient in and replace them with the appropriate supplementation. Being stressed and sleep deprived makes it harder than ever to eat right.  Studies have shown that people who take a supplement have significantly less illnesses, such as colds and flu, not to mention, you need these adequate vitamins and minerals for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters that help with sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol, which can make you wake up during the night.  It is believed that alcohol suppresses REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that is crucial for a good night’s sleep.

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