Can sleep help you loose weight? Yes it can! Here is how.
Ben Franklin once said ‘early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy and wise’. Maybe Franklin was on to something as sleep impacts both brawn and brain.
According to an article on Time.Com the brains of sleep deprived individuals demonstrated increased activity when shown photos of foods such as pizza and cake.
When shown photos of foods such as oatmeal, fruits and vegetables the brain did not demonstrate that level of intense activity.
This simply means less sleep means more pizza!
I ‘WILL’ Sleep
There is a direct correlation between sleep and willpower. No need to complicate it so just remember the formulas below:
MORE SLEEP = MORE WILLPOWER = STICKING TO MY DIET AND WORKOUT EASIER
LESS SLEEP = LESS WILLPOWER=BREAKING MY DIET AND SKIPPING WORKOUTS EASIER
Or just print the cartoon below and hang on your bedroom:
Biology of Will-Power
Willpower has a biology of its own residing in the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain. The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for conscious choices and decision making including decisions on whether we eat pizza or fruits.
If the pre-frontal cortex doesn’t get enough sleep we can lose control over other regions of the brain causing an overreaction to stress and being stuck in a constant fight or flight state of mind.
The next Phineas Gage? Could be you!
In the famous and well studied case of Phineas Gage an iron bar accidentally destroyed a portion of Gage’s pre-frontal cortex leading to a sudden change in his behavior including profanity and sudden bursts of anger.
Gage lost will power due to the pre-frontal cortex damage and has a result his behavior changed for the worst.
The message? Shortchange your sleep and become the next Phineas Gage!
Ok a lack of sleep may not give us sudden urges to go dancing in public places but it can make sticking to our diet and workouts more difficult.
Willpower is also a finite resource and tires with use. Therefore the more willpower we use as we go about our day to day lives then the more it depletes.
Decisions at the office, decisions about what clothes to wear, what to eat for lunch, and stress all uses up willpower.
Think of willpower like a battery that loses charge the more we use it. Why erode it further by not sleeping?
How Can 4 Hours of Sleep Be Better Than 8?
So we have seen the link between willpower and sleep. But we need to look at sleep a bit more closely.
All sleep is not created equal. I am sure there are nights when you ‘sleep’ 8 hours but awake groggy as if you had no sleep.
Sleep is divided into cycles. One cycle of sleep lasts approximately 90 minutes.
We go through about five of these 90 minutes cycle each time we sleep. That’s around 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
So each 90 minute cycle is divided into the following 4 phases:
- N1: You lie down and close your eyes and transition into sleep.
- N2: This is the light sleep phase about 10- 25 minutes after closing your eyes to sleep.
- N3: Here you are actually sleeping. This is deep sleep mode.
- REM: The famous Rapid Eye Movement Phase where restoration of the body and mental faculties take place.
You need as much REM sleep as you can get that’s why it is important not to have interruptions. You can’t just leap from N1 to REM as you have to go through each phase before entering the other.
You can’ sleep’ for 8 hours but if you keep constantly waking up at N2 or N3 and never enter the REM phase then that is not good quality sleep.
On the other hand if you sleep uninterrupted for 4 hours and enjoy 2 or 3 REM phases then this is better than sleeping for 7.5 hours and getting none.
How Can I Sleep Better?
So let’s look at how we can improve on our sleep thus making our health and fitness plans easier to follow. The following should help:
- Darken the room. We need melatonin to sleep and darkness stimulate melatonin production. Try the following:
- Use thick curtains to block out sunlight
- Block out all sources of light from electronics including laptops, television, chargers and cell phones. These are blue light sources which is sleep disruptive. Also do it about an hour before sleep as the brain needs time to de-activate.
- If you need to use a light to sleep like I do then use a red light.
- Use an eye mask if you can’t change curtains or if your spouse insists on lighting.
- Keep room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Body temperature naturally drops to initiate the sleeping process and this temperature helps initiates this.
- Shower 90 minutes before your bed time. This helps with bringing the body to a cooler temperature to help induce sleep.
- Block out noise if possible by using ear plugs. A neighbor of mine had a Golden Retriever and he used to bark right outside my bedroom window all night! Noise can really affect the quality of your sleep.
- Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Also limit the amount of liquid you drink before bed so as to avoid waking up for a toilet trip.
- Don’t use your bed for anything besides sleep and well the other ‘S’. I had a habit of reading on my bed and using my laptop on the bed. My brain automatically linked the bed with reading and working hence making it difficult to fall asleep when I lay on it.
- Cut out all things you deem exciting a few hours before sleep. I am interested in organic home gardening and signed up for this online gardening course. I realized whenever I looked at one of the videos just before going to bed that my brain kept thinking of it and thinking of what the other video would bring. Now I don’t look at any of those videos if it’s close to my sleep time.
- Exciting things can also include novels, video games, board games, action movies etc.
- Journalize your thought. Keeping stuff in your mind clutters it and can affect sleep. The mere act of writing things down externalizes it and somehow makes it seem that you have control over it.
- When journaling don’t only do a journal but write down action plans or solutions….just to calm the brain down.
- Avoid any caffeine and alcohol for at least 6 hours before sleep as it takes that amount of time to fully metabolize these in the body.
- Chamomile herb tea and aromatherapy can help with calming the nerves to relax and sleep better.
Lifestyle Changes to Encourage Better Sleep
We have listed tactics above that can be implemented immediately tonight!
But there are certain lifestyle changes that can be used build better sleeping habits.
- Exercise. This improves the quality of sleep that you get. I have read that people who exercise needs less sleep. I don’t know if this is true but what I do know is that exercise does improve the quality of sleep. You spend more time in the REM phases.
- Power naps. These can be done anywhere. I try to do it in my car during my lunch hour. In the book Brain Rules by John Medina he cites a study done by NASA where pilots who took a 26 minute nap improved their performance by 35%.
Obviously poor sleep has more effects than just affecting our willpower and self-control adversely.
It can cause poor judgement on the road. I myself nearly feel asleep in broad daylight one day after having a poor night’s sleep.
It has also been linked to heart disease, cancer and an increase in a hunger inducing hormone known as ghrelin. More ghrelin equals more hunger which equals more food!
Just remember the following:
MORE SLEEP = MORE WILLPOWER = BETTER HEALTH AND FITNESS CHOICES
Wishing you a happy and enjoyable sleep!