Is it possible to lose weight sleeping?
I went away for 5 days over the December holiday. Five days stretched to 10 days because of the blizzard that hit NYC. Our return flight was cancelled, and Delta couldn't get us out for another 5 days. At first I was stressing, because I had patients coming in between Christmas and New Years. Once I contacted everyone, I tried to enjoy my extra days in Florida with my family. In my case, enjoyment can directly translate to eating and sleeping. Oh, and some wine, too!
As you may or may not know, my wife and son are both classically trained chefs. Anywhere we go, food is involved. If food were a religion, we would be zealot observers. So, where is this going?
Well... I consumed enough food and wine during this family reunion, to feed a family of four in a developing nation for 6 months. I was certain I gained 5-7 lbs. There was no scale where we were staying, so I couldn't weigh myself the whole time. By the way, I usually weigh myself everyday. During my typical workweek in NYC, I work out 5 days per week, no exceptions. That includes cardio, 5 days per week, and 3-4 days a week of resistance, core, pylometrics, weight, stretching, etc. I worked out only once during my 10 day stay in Florida, when my cousin Jimmy, took me as a guest to his Gold's Gym.
I know you are hanging on every word at this point. This is a virtual cliffhanger. So, what happened?
When I got home to Blizzard Buried Brooklyn, my scale showed that I lost 1 lb!
How did this happen? Maybe I didn't eat as much as I told you? No, I ate an enormous amount. I ate much more than I normally eat. I also had sweets, cookies, and ice cream, almost everyday.
I know what was different. I slept. A lot.
When I am on my normal work schedule in NYC, I typically go to bed at midnight, and wake up at 5:30- 6 am. This is an improvement because 6 months ago, when we lived in New Jersey, I would get up at 4:30 am. So, I would say I averaged, 5 hours of sleep per night in the past 7 years.
For 10 days in Florida, I averaged 9 hours. Slacker! Sloth! Sooey!
Why is this significant? In one word... Cortisol!
Cortisol: Is a hormone that is made in your adrenal glands, and secreted in your bloodstream. The adrenal glands directly or indirectly have an affect on almost every cell in your body. The adrenals are the "stress gland" of the body, secreting hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol, aldosterone and norepinephrine. The bodies' physiological response to stress and its ability to react and adapt to that stress is largely the job of the adrenals. Any gland that overworks will eventually under function.
When we are under stress, especially chronic stress, our body releases more cortisol, at higher levels and with increased frequency. This high-level, will make the body retain fat around the trunk of the body. Hips, abdomen, thighs, buttocks, face, neck and back are the places we gain weight, when are cortisol gets high. High levels of cortisol will disturb sleep, which digs you deeper in this vicious cycle. Not only will you experience weight gain, but also it becomes an uphill battle to lose weight. In addition, the immune system gets depressed. Blood sugar gets elevated and a decrease in insulin sensitivity can result. Memory, energy levels, and your sex drive go downhill, too.
How much sleep is enough? For many people, 9 hours would be too much. If you didn't use an alarm clock for 3-5 days in a row, and you didn't force yourself to go back to sleep. How much sleep would your body really need? What amount of sleep would be optimal? It's hard to figure out. Many people use stimulants and depressants. Whether they choose a pharmaceutical or a "natural" version. I would be willing to bet, that if you could get closer to a minimum of 7.5- 8 hours of sleep, your health would change, and you would have a much easier time with weight loss, too.
If you have been getting by on 5-7 hours of sleep, for years and feel great... meaning that you have vibrant energy all day long, and get sick less than once per year, than good for you. But if you are sleeping this amount and have chronic colds, weight you can't lose, having trouble going to sleep and staying asleep, then there is a good chance you have cortisol issues that needs addressing. Here are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.
Your first job is to make sure your room is pitch black. That's right. Work on getting your room like a cave. Cover up all lights, alarm clocks and computer, and night-lights. The porphyrin proteins that make up your red blood cells, are sensitive to light, and carry this information of light exposure to the brain. This will block the release of the hormone/neurotransmitter melatonin from being released from the anterior pituitary. In short, you won't sleep as well, and you will mess up your cortisol balance.
A few more ideas...no caffeine after 3 pm. Have a bite of protein at bedtime. Even 2 oz. of protein will help keep your blood sugar balanced.
For high cortisol, there are a few good supplements that I use in my office that are inexpensive and really work. So email me if you need info on that. firstname.lastname@example.org
There are other nutritional support ideas, having to do with adrenals, thyroid, hormonal balance, and even anterior pituitary. Again this would probably take a phone or in person consult to handle this at that level.
A good night sleep changes everything. Inflammation improves, so does allergies, memory and libido, too. Too much sleep isn't a good idea, but many adults who are doing the daily grind, are truly getting too little sleep. Sleep more on a consistent basis. Even an extra 30-60 minutes on average of extra sleep will make it significantly easier to lose weight. Also, remember to work on the quality of your sleep, too.
Dr. Doug Willen, is a NYC based Chiropractor and Nutritionist. He specializes in "natural solutions to chronic health issues", ranging from weight loss, chronic pain to digestive issues and natural hormone balance.