By Simone Austin
Weight loss requires behavioural change, so altering the habits formed over a lifetime can be daunting. To be successful requires a great deal of focus. Of course, this is very difficult to maintain when you are sleep deprived and stressed!
People who regularly get more than six and less than eight hours sleep are believed to achieve the best weight loss results. This is supported by numerous studies, including a weight loss program carried out by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, USA.
While poor diet and inactivity are synonymous with weight gain and obesity, most people don’t consider sleeplessness and stress as influential factors in the battle of the bulge. Leptin and ghrelin – two appetite-regulating hormones that are produced at night – are central to the connection between sleep and weight loss. Leptin tells your brain to stop eating. Ghrelin does the opposite, telling you to finish that extra large serving. Researchers have found that lack of sleep is associated with lower leptin and higher ghrelin levels. This imbalance may affect your appetite control, making it harder to lose weight. The lower leptin level may also cause your body to burn less fuel, as it does during a fasting state.
There are many reasons why people don’t get enough sleep. Some of these are organisational, while others may be because we have trouble sleeping.
Eating tips to help you sleep well
• Avoid eating a heavy meal close to bedtime, as your body will be busy trying to digest the meal and you will be feeling heavy. Avoid over-eating at any time and try to consume your meal a few hours before bedtime.
• A cup of chamomile tea can act like a mild sedative to help you relax.
• A glass of warm milk with honey is a good old-fashioned remedy for insomnia. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, used in the production of the serotonin, which aids in inducing sleep.
• A small snack before bedtime may help you sleep better. This could be a carbohydrate-containing food (such as a slice of bread or a banana) with a protein food (such as lean turkey or almonds) that result in a higher blood level of tryptophan. Sleep scientists from the University of Sydney found that the increase in tryptophan was reliant on the carbohydrate causing the increase in insulin.
• Chlorophyll-rich foods such as green vegetables may help promote sleep. They are highå in magnesium, which promotes relaxation.
Simone Austin currently divides her time between her role as the dietitian for Swisse Vitamins, the Hawthorn Football Club, Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club, Melbourne Heart Football Club and private practice and aged care consultations. Previous to this, Simone spent six years as the dietitian for the Australian Men’s Cricket Team, as well as roles in community health and other state-wide football teams.
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