Why 'Weight' For Good Sleep?
In my eBook, 'The 14 Non-Diet Fat Loss Hacks', I discussed how being tired and under-slept can cause you to gain weight. The disturbance to both our physiology and psychology when we are fatigued often leads to us craving high-energy junk foods and feeling super-sluggish. This is the perfect recipe for weight gain and all the associated lifestyle conditions that flow from there. Yep, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and many more.
But it turns out that that tiredness not only causes weight gain and a bursting belly, but the reverse it also true. Weight gain actually causes tiredness, more specifically, fatigue directly due to poorer sleep. That's a classic definition of a vicious cycle.
Show Me The Science
The science is ample showing the link between excess body fat and poor sleeping habits. But what should fill you with super-sleeping excitement is a 2012 study by the John Hopkins University School that showed sleep quality can directly be improved by putting individuals onto a weight loss program.
The study took a baseline sleep quality survey of 77 overweight or obese individuals that had progressed to developing Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. It detailed parametres associated with sleep quality including restlessness level, use of sedatives, fatigue, over-sleeping and sleep apnea and observed how these changed over 6 months of a weight loss program.
The participants on average achieved weight loss of 6.8kg and a near 15% reduction in belly fat through either diet or diet and exercise combined. The key finding was a 20% improvement in sleep quality after the 6-month time frame. 20%!!! Imagine having a 20% better sleep tonight!
But How Does My Weight Affect My Sleep?
There are more complicated biochemical means for which increased weight can affect your sleep. The disruption to hormonal balance for example can be a contributing factor to your level of arousal and irritability.
The more simple contributor of excess weight to poor sleep is purely mechanical. In overweight or obese people, fat tends to build up in the abdomen and neck, and this places physical pressure on the airway. Effectively, the weight of the fat is crushing your windpipe!
In mild cases, the airway is restricted and oxygen flow is reduced but in more extreme circumstances, the airway can completely collapse for a period of between 10 seconds and one minute. This cuts off oxygen to the brain and the sufferer rouses to a snort or a gasp, often without waking, in the body's attempt to source air.
This interrupted and very dangerous experience can happen hundreds of time during a night sleep. And despite often the sufferer not even realising, they will inevitably feel terribly fatigued due to the general restlessness, poor clearance of carbon dioxide and reduced supply of oxygen.
Breaking The Cycle
Rates of sleep disturbance including that of sleep apnea in the Western world have paralleled the increase in average body weights. The above graphic is a reminder of how vicious and encapsulating that weight-sleep cycle actual is. As you put on more weight, your sleep worsens, which causes hormonal imbalance which encourages poor nutrition and activity patterns which causes more weight gain. You get it?
This emphasises the need for a "whole of life" change. Turn the cycle around so that it works for you instead of against you by breaking the pattern. The simplest (note I said "simplest" not "easiest") means of commencing this change phase is to get moving, any movement. Just starting is the key...
Enlist the company of your partner or even your dog and get out for a stroll. The greatest of journeys, both real and metaphorical, start with a single step. A single, empowering step.
The rewards for the brave are clearly available and creating that first wave is the difficult part. One you get moving, things become easier.
I've tried to include my best tips on weight management and healthy living in Bloke Can Cook, my new eBook that is available from my web store here for just $20. A tiny price to pay for a tonne of road-tested strategies...