Last week, we featured a question from “E.A.”, who struggles with sleep deprivation and snack cravings while working the night shift. Trainer Sandra Ferrerio has some additional information and advice to share about this problem.
Poor sleep habits, roughly defined for the adult female as less than 6 hours or more than 8-9 hours in a 24 hour period, can contribute to weight gain. This also can prevent one from losing weight.
First, let’s talk about how hormones affect and are affected by sleep.
- Cortisol and Insulin
Hormones such as cortisol and insulin play a big role in why, where, and how one stores fat. Simply stressing about sleeping can disrupt your body’s natural ability to relax and sleep. Your hunger hormone and insulin sensitivity, due to poor sleep habits, cause seemingly uncontrollable cravings! This happens because your hunger hormone rises when you go long periods without normal sleep patterns.
HGH (human growth hormone) has its biggest pulses not only during and after strenuous exercise but also during sleep. HGH is your body’s natural fat-burning, bone-strengthening, muscle-sculpting miracle hormone. You maximize its effects by working out, eating right, and, if necessary, sleeping in small chunks throughout a 24-hour period.
The human body is naturally, from an evolutionary standpoint, designed to sleep at night when it is dark. When there is darkness, you brain’s natural production of melatonin can go to work for you.
I understand that your shift work makes it difficult for you to fall asleep during daylight hours, so here are some suggestions for falling asleep more easily.
- When it is time to turn in for rest, decompress first. Try a yoga class at one of our locations, a meditation CD, or reading.
- TV, computers, cell phones, and even digital clocks can keep you awake. Try to sign off of the computer 1-2 hours before bedtime. I put my cell phone in the drawer next to my bed, so it doesn’t wake me up, but in case of any emergencies, it’s there.
- Make the room as close to natural darkness as possible. Pull down the shades. I even hide my alarm clock’s bright red light in the drawer by my bed!
- You can also take natural melatonin supplements with approval from your doctor.
As far as cravings go, if you are hungry, you must eat! One’s risk of obesity nearly doubles when one goes to bed hungry! Only eating at certain times of the day is antiquated, mythological thinking. This mentality puts one at war with her own body, causing stress and compounding the already existing issue. I don’t mean lonely-hungry or tired-hungry. I mean a gentle nudge from your belly indicating that it needs nourishment.
Here are some healthy before-bed snacks:
- Low-fat cottage cheese. Because it’s a bit high in sodium, do not exceed the recommended serving size, especially if you have hypertension (high blood pressure). Casein, one of milk’s two proteins, helps prevent catabolism (eating away) of one’s own muscles. Mix the cottage cheese with a bit of fruit or veggies. Or, you may add 1 serving of carbs, such as 1 slice of whole grain bread. This combination creates a “complete” protein that will help with HGH production while you sleep. This snack also contains all of your essential amino acids!
- Whey protein, found in Live Rite shakes, is also one of milk’s two proteins. Our shakes have fat-burning benefits and help sculpt muscle while shedding fat, particularly from the abdominal region. In addition, LiveRite shakes have “female friendly” vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin D. And we have lots of tasty recipes for you! I have 2 shakes per day myself, as a meal replacement for breakfast and one for a snack!
- 1 egg or egg whites with a little healthy carb, such as 1/2 cup of veggies, with a magnesium supplement. (Again, check with your doctor before incorporating any supplement into your diet.) The egg contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps you sleep.
- 1/2 of a turkey sandwich on whole grain toast. Like eggs, turkey contains tryptophan.
- For vegetarians, I recommend a high-protein product such as a soy burger patty and a bit of healthy carbs.
- Fuel your body properly. Eat every 2-4 hours.
- Plan in advance. Purchase a cooler, and make your shakes in the morning for the rest of the day (or night, in your case!).
- Hydrate. A minimum of 8-11 glasses of cold water per day is essential. Dehydration of cells causes HGH inhibition, which will further your craving problem. Ice cold water raises the metabolism by 30% for 1.5 hours, a recent German study proved.
- Stimulants: if you are sensitive to caffeine, stay away from fat burners or any stimulant except green tea or coffee upon waking. This is especially true during bedtime hours, whether your bedtime is in the a.m. or the p.m.! (Weight Wizer Pro helps burn fat with no stimulants!)
- Magnesium, when taken as a supplement, has been proven to help with muscle contraction and has a calming affect when taken at night. Check with your doctor first as with all supplements.
- Chamomile tea is a naturally relaxing drink. It’s part of my evening ritual every night!
To E.A., who submitted this question to us, I hope these suggestions help you. Please keep us posted and let us know how you’re doing!