Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The secret weapon

After restricting myself to only two coffees yesterday morning, I managed a deliciously uninterrupted 7 or so hours sleep last night. I also sneaked in a 2-hour nap yesterday arvo. Bliss.... I'm feeling much better, thanks.

Seriously, lack of sleep can really mess with you in a big way. Even if you're not suffering from insomnia, being woken constantly by small children, working rotating shifts or whatever, the cumulative efffects of going just a little short on sleep on a regular basis can be pretty dire.

When my snooze hours are compromised, I find it difficult to train at all, let alone give it the intensity it warrants. I'm exhausted, cranky (my husband would ask what's different about that?) and barely functioning. And the health risks of sleep deprivation are well-known too: increased blood pressure, some funky hormonal effects, increased risk of diabetes, and of course fat loss and muscle gain go all haywire - not in a good way. But the thing that I always notice, even with short-term sleep deprivation, is the effect on my appetite and food choices.

It's like crappy food becomes completely irresistable or something. I know that my mental focus and decision-making skills are a little fuzzy, sure, but the thing I always notice is that cravings hit HARD when I've not been putting in enough snooze time. And the things that I crave are always sugar and/or processed carbs. I put it down to the hormonal thing (something weird to do with insulin, maybe?), plus my body's need for an energy boost, since I'm apparently making it stay awake for 3 zillion hours straight. That's obviously what made the croissant with butter and jam seem like just the thing for second breakfast yesterday morning. At least I burnt it off (and then some) in my insane cardio workout. And it was delicious, by the way. :p

So, getting enough sleep is important for everyone, but when you're trying to improve your physique, it's absolutely vital. These are the things that usually work for me:

1) Having a regular bed time, regardless of whether I'm working, it's the weekend, or I'm on holidays. I haven't done too well at this one lately....
2) Staying off the coffee after dinner. (Again with the not so well....)
3) Getting up at the same time (-ish) every day. *sigh*
4) Avoiding daytime naps, except in emergencies. Um....

Looking at my list, I've broken every single one of my rules over the Christmas period, so it's actually little wonder I've been feeling weary. Sometimes you need a gentle reminder - or maybe a smack in the face with a heavy frying pan, if you're a bit thick like me - to get yourself back on track.

So, my tip for today: if your healthy eating and/or exercise attempts are suffering, and you can't seem to get it together, maybe you should take a look at your sleeping habits.


Edit: I have a vague recollection that leptin and serotonin are the likely culprits for the appetite/craving thing, and that both are affected by sleep (or lack thereof). I'm sure Sara knows, she's clever.....


Magda said...

Hi Kek,

just read your post below HAHAHA. Bet you wint make THAT mistake again.
Thanks for making me laugh (again!!).



Chris H said...

I think Diet Coke is supposed to keep you awake too.. funny... it doesn't work like that for me! Luckily I should say, cos I sip on it during the night too. Evil I know.

Cherub said...

I'm really hoping my kids will be asleep in 15 mins so I can have a snooze. Having a friend over for dinner again tonight. I'm still trying to burn the candle at both ends. I think it is just a different candle these days.

Raechelle said...

Yes-agree absolutely 100%! Sleep is soooo vital to overall health. It's funny that you should post this-Charlotte

posted an article by Craig Harper on that subject's a good read!

Kek said...

Ooh, thanks Raechelle! Great article. I love Craig Harper, he's so....honest. :)

Kathryn said...

I do exactly the same thing, lack of sleep = excess of food.

Kyra said...

I get up at the same time, but going to sleep at the same time is tough. If I had it my way, I would be up until 2am and sleeping until 10. But, it's just not meant to be when you have kids. *sigh* ;) The less sleep I have the more bad food looks good to me too though. Blah.

BeepBeep said...

I find that when you're awake for 21 out of 24 hours / day, you have a bit more time on your hands to eat. :)

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