Everyone’s talking about leptin, also known as the ‘appetite hormone’. When leptin is working properly, it sends a signal to the brain to say, ‘Hey buddy, no more cake – you're full now.’ We all need this helpful reminder to get us to put our forks down. Unfortunately, the less sleep we have, the less leptin we create. And when we don’t have enough leptin, we don’t have that inner voice telling us when we’ve had enough.
Our fat storage hormone, insulin, can become resistant when we aren’t getting adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation also increases production of cortisol, which can make cells more resistant to insulin. Poor sleep can also trigger changes to thyroid hormones and testosterone, which can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity and higher blood glucose, which in turn leads to weight issues.
Micro habits for good sleep
Restructure your bedtime
Start going to bed a little earlier every night, but make the change slowly. If you normally fall asleep at 11.30pm, don’t try to get into bed tonight at 9pm. Gradually move your bedtime by 15 minutes each night until you’re in bed by 10pm. If you know you need more sleep than this, try to eventually be in bed by 9.30pm.
No blue light after dinner
No computer, phone, or laptop – or as little as possible, anyway (nobody’s perfect). Make your bedroom a sanctuary – keep it clean, tidy, cool and dark, and you’ll sleep so much better.
Eat good 'sleep food'
Too much sugar creates ‘monkey chatter’ in our mind and leads to poor sleep. Keep added sugar to a minimum, and eat protein at each meal to keep hunger and sugar cravings at bay. Protein also breaks down to an amino acid called tryptophan, which is the precursor to melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.
Hydrating all day long is important for your bowels and skin, and so you don’t confuse thirst for hunger. It also keeps you energised and helps sleep. Try not to drink too much after 6pm, so a full bladder won’t disturb your slumber.
Can you catch up on zzz's?
Can getting extra sleep on the weekend help you catch up on what you missed during the week? Perhaps. In a study of more than 2000 participants, those who slept longer on the weekend had a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t. However, creating good sleep habits is really important – and is probably the easiest routine to stick to in the long term. I see better results with consistent sleep rather than ‘banked’ sleep.
This is an edited extract from Eat, Drink & Still Shrink by Michele Chevalley Hedge (Pan Macmillan, $34.99). Buy it here.