Are you sleepless and not in Seattle with Tom Hanks???
Take heart – you are not alone. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) lists trouble falling asleep as one of their main five symptoms of menopause. Most women complain of sleeplessness during perimenopause to postmenopause, with about 61% of post-menopausal women having issues with insomnia, per the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
If you have joined this insomnia fest, you may also be wondering who is shrinking your pants?? I decided to explore if there is a correlation between insomnia and weight gain.
Dr. Caroline Apovian, the Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, and the author of The Age-Defying Diet says, “Yes!”. I asked Caroline to give us her top 5 bedtime habits that would help us lose those extra pounds.
1.) Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
Your inner clock, or circadian rhythms, controls the release of hormones that signal your body to prepare for both sleep and waking. Regularly changing your bedtime and wake time interferes with this process. Not only will you have a harder time falling asleep and waking up in the morning without a consistent bedtime, but your cortisol levels will also be higher all day. Cortisol, one of our main stress hormones, ramps up feelings of anxiety and prompts us to overeat, especially on calorie-dense foods.
You may have noticed that as you age, you wake much earlier than usual, and often have a difficult time getting back to sleep. Changing sleep patterns are a normal part of the aging process. If your body consistently expects to wake up earlier, try shifting your bedtime to a corresponding earlier time as well, to make sure you get a full night of sleep.
2.) Sleep for 7-9 hours every night.
A lack of sufficient sleep not only stimulates high cortisol levels but also interferes with the efficiency of our metabolism. Two important hormones, ghrelin, and leptin are brought into balance while you sleep. Ghrelin signals the body to replenish energy stores and is experienced as hunger and cravings. Leptin helps us to feel full and satisfied. The day after a less than an optimal night of sleep, ghrelin levels remain high and leptin levels drop, regardless of what we eat. Impulse control is also low on a day following a poor night of sleep, making it less likely that you will say no to sugary, high-calorie temptations when they present themselves.
Our muscles are also repaired as we sleep. Getting less than the recommended amount of sleep erodes lean muscle mass and subsequently slows the metabolism. Counteract this metabolic slow down through getting enough sleep, strength training a couple of times per week, and eating plenty of lean protein.
3.) Turn off all electronics two hours before bed.
You’ve probably heard that the blue light emitted from computers, smartphones, TVs, and most other electronic devices interferes with melatonin production. Even if you can fall asleep right after watching TV or checking your phone, you will experience less deep sleep throughout the night. The following day, you will experience more fatigue, irritability, and hunger than usual. Turning devices off a couple of hours prior to bedtime will help you to sidestep this unwelcome effect.
Along the same lines, sleeping in a darkened room will help you to sleep more soundly and deeply. In one interesting study published by the Oxford University Press, women who slept in the darkest rooms experienced the lowest rates of obesity.
4.) Eat a high protein dinner.
Research from the Oregon Health & Science University and Harvard University demonstrates that we naturally experience more cravings at night, especially for sweet and salty foods. In this study, researchers recruited volunteers to spend two weeks in dimly lit hotel rooms without any electronics, watches, visitors, or other markers that would help them to determine the time of day. The team of researchers varied the waking and sleeping times of the volunteers and fed them the same meals at regular intervals. Despite not knowing the time of day, the volunteers were consistently hungriest later in the evening.
Snacking late at night can lead to weight gain. Generally, right before bedtime, we’ve already consumed enough calories for the day. In addition, giving our metabolisms a temporary rest from solid foods, even for as short of a period as after dinner until breakfast the following morning, encourages our bodies to tap into excess fat stores for energy. Prevent unnecessary snacking by eating a dinner high in satiating protein.
5.) Eat a diet rich in sleep-inducing foods.
While some foods, such as caffeine and alcohol, can interfere with a sound night’s sleep, others can actually enhance it. Foods rich in tryptophan, like turkey, tuna, and chickpeas, act as natural sedatives, lulling us to sleep. Other foods, such as the Montmorency cherry, contain high levels of natural melatonin, one of the primary hormones responsible for sleep. A lack of calcium can also contribute to poor sleep quality, so adding some unsweetened Greek yogurt to your day can make a difference as well.
Instead of staring at the wall or e-shopping up a storm, try some of these new sleep tips. If you can get those zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s back, and lose a few extra pounds – sounds like a win-win to me!
My motto: Suffering in Silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!