Insomnia and Interrupted Sleep Leads to Overeating and Weight Gain
What Is Insomnia & How It Causes Weight Gain?
Many people think the term “insomnia” refers to a complete lack of sleep. In truth, insomnia encompasses a host of sleep problems, including:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up in the middle of the night or non-restful sleep
- Early morning awakening
Don’t Be a Hero: The Negative Effects of Insomnia
Ever heard someone brag that he or she only needs six hours of sleep? While it’s admirable to try to put a positive spin on a negative situation, taking a heroic attitude toward sleeplessness can be bad for your health. Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep. Getting insufficient sleep can:
- Cause fatigue, irritability, and excessive daytime sleepiness leading to decreased work performance and exacerbate depression and anxiety
- Cause weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight
- Cause elevated blood pressure and can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease
Techniques for Relieving Insomnia without Medication
Medications can be good for some things. And certainly some natural or herbal sleep products may help you get some rest. But prescription pills for sleeping should be the last thing you try.Unfortunately, some sleep medications can actually make the problem worse:
- Sleep aids frequently disrupt sleep cycles, causing less restorative sleep
- People can become dependent on these meds,
- Tolerance to sleep meds over time, requiring more medication to get the same effect
What Is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a collection of habits that can help you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply.
Sleep Hygiene Do’s:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week. Restrict vigorous exercise to the morning or afternoon.
- Take a warm bath or shower before bed.
- Make sure your sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. Your bed should be comfortable, and your room shouldn’t be too hot, too cold, or too bright. If necessary, use earplugs and an eye-mask. Be sure your pillow is comfortable.
- Associate your bed with sleep and sex only. Don’t work, eat or watch TV in bed.
- Go to bed when sleepy, and get out of bed if you’re tossing and turning.
- Turn your clock around so you can’t see the time.
- Turn off the alert for texts and emails on your phone.
- If you’re unable to fall asleep after about 20 minutes, leave bed and do something relaxing (like reading); return to bed later, never lay in bed looking at the clock and worrying about feeling bad the next day.
Sleep Hygiene Don’ts:
- Don’t ingest caffeine after noon. This includes coffee, tea, iced tea, energy drinks and soda.
- Don’t have that second glass of wine with dinner. While alcohol is known to speed the onset of sleep, it also disrupts sleep. Don’t take other stimulants close to bedtime, including chocolate, nicotine and certain medications.
- Don’t eat a large, heavy meal within 2 hours of bedtime.
- Don’t watch TV, use the computer or spend long periods on a mobile device before bed. These activities stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep. Another component of good sleep hygiene is preparing for sleep by decreasing our exposure to stimulating content, like TV, social media, and the news, as we get closer to bedtime. Some experts suggest avoiding devices for an hour before bed. When you’re going to bed, you want to do things that are relaxing, like reading a book. You want to gradually transition into sleep; you don’t want your mind to be stimulated.
If Sleep Hygiene Isn’t Enough: Melatonin, Blue Light Glasses & Filters, or Sleeping Pills
- Melatonin Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body’s pineal located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is “turned on” and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs around 9 pm. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours – all through the night – before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels. Melatonin doses: 3-5 mg about 60 minutes before sleep.
- Blue Light Filter Glasses: Your sleeping issues may be caused by the use of smart phones, computers, or tablets at night. If you are unable or unwilling to turn them off 3 hours before sleep, consider using glasses that filter out the blue light from the screens of these devices. That blue light inhibits melatonin release and therefore can keep you awake.
- Prescription Sleep Medications: When all else fails, you might consider taking prescription sleeping medications such AMBIEN (Zolpiden), LUNESTA (Eszopiclone), Sonata (Zaleplon), RESTORIL (Temazepam), or even Klonopin (Clonazepam). All of these medications are FDA approved for short term use.