Sleep it off...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When I was a young and arrogantly thin girl of about 15, I went on a family vacation with a friend. We ate and ate and ate some more, with nary a concern for calories or fat content.

My friend’s grandmother looked at us one day while we were scarfing down even more vacation food and said, “I don’t know how you girls stay so thin…must be those late nights and lack of sleep.”

Wow. You should be really careful about what you say to impressionable girls. I mean, seriously, Grandma’s mouth to God’s ear. I took this as the True Secret of Weight Loss. Don’t sleep. Because one doesn’t question the wisdom of the Ancient or ask for scientific proof of her claim, I didn’t know she was talking straight out of her ass.

Of course, looking back, my guess is that the reason we stayed so thin while consuming vast amounts of food was because we spent the hours between meals walking, walking, walking…scouting out secure locations in the woods to smoke our cigarettes and drink our pilfered liquor. And then we would walk some more, looking for boys. (That didn’t change much over the years: Add liquor, look for boys.) Our 15-year-old metabolisms probably helped, too.

I am almost ashamed to admit how long I kept that little weight-loss pearl in my head. Every time I thought I need to drop five pounds, I would sleep about 3 hours a night. It seemed to work. Probably because I was such a zombie I didn’t have the energy to lift a fork.

As it turns out, people who sleep the least are often the most overweight. Why is that? According to research, hormones play a big role in sleep and appetite. There are two hormones specifically linked to appetite - ghrelin, which is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and stimulates the appetite, and leptin, produced in fat cells, which sends a signal to the brain when you are full.

In these studies, when sleep was severely restricted, leptin levels went down and ghrelin levels went up. The study participants’ experienced increased appetites and their desire for high carbohydrate, calorie-dense foods increased by 45%. They also had a higher level of body fat than those who slept eight hours per night.

Pretty interesting – for a science thing. Of course, an argument could be made for my non-scientific feeling that, if you’re sleeping, you’re not eating. If I am staying up late, I am probably going to get hungry around 11:00 pm. Four or five hours after a “reasonable” dinner? Yeah. I’m going to need something. And I am probably going to need something quick, convenient, and loaded with carbs. If there is cake around the house, that’s what I’m hitting. But if I go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00? I’m avoiding several hundred calories. And lots of sugar.

When I was diligently counting points on Weight Watchers, I always went to bed when my points ran out. Less chance of getting hungry again and not being able to do anything about it. Sometimes that put me in bed at 7:30 but, whatever – it worked.

Eight hours of sleep during the week sometimes seems impossible – but if you shoot for at least six, you should get the same benefit. And make it up on the weekends. Not much in life better than an afternoon nap, is there?

15 comments:

Kathie @ my net finds said...

hmmm, interesting...you know, when I think about it, when I was younger and skinnier all I seemed to do was sleep! I don't get as much sleep now and not so much on the skinny side. great post!

Housewife Savant said...

If I got three hours of sleep I'd be burning serious calories just trying to remember the names of my children and where I put the remote.

You were a perfectly delightful, drunken, thieving 15-year-old, but you got a little sick there, with the No Sleep Theory of Weight Loss.

I'm glad you're normal now, and oh-so-cool.

BetteJo said...

I can't blame lack of sleep on my weight gain. I've always loved my sleep! But yeah - I used to walk all the time at that age too, and smoke, and drink, and all those fun things.
Come to think of it - I don't smoke anymore and I rarely if ever drink - maybe I need to take those things up again! :)

Carla Cunningham said...

I wrote a book called “Alone in the Storm” which is an inspirational and heart warming story about an overweight British woman who travels to New Orleans to visit an old friend. There she witnesses the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The story was based on real life events.

- http://www.eloquentbooks.com/AloneInTheStorm.html 

(I'm on Facebook & MySpace)

Carla Cunningham
Published Author of Alone in the Storm

Ree said...

Gee. If that was true, I should weigh 98 lbs.

Actually, it is true. I know it. I think I cross onto the other side...10 hours is probably over the top. ;-)

Patty said...

Sounds like we grew up together (although in reality, I think you might be quite a few years younger than me!)

The one thing I do well is sleep! Sometimes it takes a little while to get to sleep, but when I do, it is solid and at least six hours...usually closer to eight. And I am still fat! :-)

Bonnie said...

I would LOVE to get a consistent 8 hours/night. I know it would be so great. I usually get 6.5 or 7 though. But when I get enough and wake up rested, it makes a huge difference in the day ahead.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

As I sit in front of my computer, debating a cookie (for sugar) or a cup of coffee (for caffeine), I stumbled upon your post, Mrs. Jelly Belly.

I think I will opt for the cup of coffee. Thanks for this!

-Francesca

Oz Girl said...

With midlife upon me, I find my sleep more interrupted than it has ever been! It is frustrating when my eyes pop open at 2 a.m. and then because my stomach is growling I cannot get back to sleep. I know that if I do not get up and get something to eat, I will lay there for 2 hours or more, not able to sleep. Grrrr. And so I make my way to the kitchen....

Terri said...

When I was younger, I was so tiny but I was very active and slept in until noon! Maybe I should sleep until noon!

kristisummer said...

This lack of sleep is awful all around. When I don't sleep enough I eat like a freak. If it aint nailed down it is in my mouth

Patty said...

I hope you don't mind me stealing some of your pics...

WhisperingWriter said...

I just know if I don't get at least eight hours of sleep then I'm a total witch the next morning.

MaryRC said...

if that was the case, i should clearly be about 20 pounds lighter these days.

Herdoni Wahyono said...

Cantik dan sangat menarik !