Fall into Sleep this Season

With the start of a new school year and the end of summer sun, it only seemed appropriate to talk about sleep. Are you getting enough? Do you get excited to pull the covers over your head and get your full 8 hours? Or are you like most of the population, and not getting enough sleep. Our busy schedules, to-do lists, and stresses keep us from hitting the pillow at a decent hour, and sadly can also keep up from staying asleep the rest of the night. This fall let’s get cozy and find a healthy routine to help get those extra z’s and make the morning not so terrible.

First, why is it so important to get some sleep? Sleep aids in the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This hormone is responsible for the growth of cells, reproduction and regeneration of cells in the body; aids in building of lean body tissue (‘ahem’ that means your Muscles), and oh it also stimulates the burning of fat. Human Growth hormone release peaks at nighttime and when we are in our deepest sleep. This beauty sadly decreases with age, decreased sleep, and decreased physical activity. 1 Sleep deprivation can be linked to increased stress, thus increased levels of cortisol; increased levels of ghrelin- that lovely hormone that makes us hungry; and decreased levels of leptin- a hormone that inhibits hunger. Sadly, less sleep means we are more likely to gain weight.2 We also know that lack of sleep can cause disruption in your immune response and metabolism of blood sugars, causing increased risk of infection and increased risk of developing diabetes.

We know the why, let’s talk about the how. How do we get more sleep? What habits do you have before your you go to sleep? Do you watch a show on a device? Do you eat a bowl of ice cream? Do you take a shower?  Nancy L. Kondracki, MS, RD, LDN provided a great checklist for aiding in better sleep. She tackles the hard stuff so I am just going to let her words do all the talking:

Sleep Hygiene Checklist (directly from her article in Today’s Dietitian)

• Go to bed the same time each night and wake up the same time every morning—even on the weekends.

• Exercise early in the day for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.

• Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine after noon. These substances stimulate the nervous system, interfering with falling asleep and staying asleep by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline levels.

• Limit eating and drinking to small quantities before bedtime.

• Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist alternatives to medicines that interfere with sleep.

• Get 30 minutes of sunlight exposure, preferably in the morning hours, most days of the week.

• Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool (between 54˚F and 75˚F).

• Avoid watching TV or sitting in front of a computer for at least one hour before bedtime.

• Take a nap if needed, but not for more than 20 minutes or after 3 PM.

• Don’t lie awake in bed for more than 20 minutes. If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing such as reading a book until you feel sleepy again.

• See your family doctor or a sleep specialist if you continually feel sleepy during the day despite sleeping enough hours at night, consistently need more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night, snore loudly or frequently, or awaken frequently or for long periods most nights of the week.

• Ask your doctor about prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications. They may be helpful in the short term, but they won’t resolve biological issues interfering with sleep. Plus, they may cause side effects.

• Consider melatonin only if you’re a shift worker who must sleep during the day instead of at night. Melatonin appears to promote sleep only during the day.

Nancy’s list sheds some light on some unhealthy habits we like to keep in the dark. We all know phones in bed are terrible for our sleep, and yet we are all, yes myself included, are still guilty of it. We know that exercise is great for us, and yet it seems to be the first on the chopping block.

Let’s be realistic, we cannot tackle all bad habits in one day. But lets start small. Pick a few of Nancy’s Checklist for Sleep Hygiene and add them to your evening routine.

We all could use a little more z’s in our life.

To Health and Happiness,

Becca, NDTR Nutritionist


Caffeine and sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/caffeine-and-sleep

Cappuccio FP, et al. Meta-analysis of short sleep duration and obesity in children and adults. Sleep. 2008; 31(5) 619-626.

Cha AM, et al. Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017; 25(4): 713-720.

Markwald RR, et al. Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain.  Proc Nat Acad Sci USA.  2013; (Apr2); 110(14): 5695-5700.

Morris CJ, Aeschbach D, Scheer FAJL. Circadian system, sleep and endocrinology. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012;349(1):91-104.

Taheri S, et al. Short sleep duration is associated with reduce leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index, PLoS Med. 2004(Dec); 1(3): e62. Epub 2004 Dec 7.

Vgontzas AN, et al. Metabolic disturbance in obesity versus sleep apnea: the importance of visceral obesity and insulin resistance.  J Intern Med. 2003; 254: 32-44.

Yannakoulia M, et al. Sleep quality is associated with weight loss maintenance status: the MEdWeight Study.  Sleep Med. 2017; 34; 242-245.

Kondracki, Nancy. The Link Between Sleep and Weight Gain — Research Shows Poor Sleep Quality Raises Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk. Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 14 No. 6 P. 48; https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060112p48.shtml