Obesity has become an epidemic in the Western world. With 58.6% of the Canadian population considered overweight or obese in 2004, as health care providers we need to take a more comprehensive approach to patient care than simply telling the patient to “lose weight”. Weight gain – or the lack of weight loss – is a whole body concern. It’s not as simple as “pain in the ear” then treat the ear. Weight loss involves the whole body; physical mental and emotional.
One consistent topic of discussion I have with my patients is about their sleep habits. In this technological age of tablets, TV’s, laptops and smart phones it is easy to allow ourselves to distract our minds from the bedtime task of sleeping. I don’t begrudge the desire to have a story told to us – that comforting feeling of being tucked in as a child and passively having a great tale laid out before our eyes. Sleep is for resting and regenerating. We each need to ensure that our pre-bed routine allows our mind and body to relax and disconnect from our hectic day.
A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology looks at how less than 7 hours of sleep in an adult increases the risk of obesity. This study, along with many others, begins to demystify the link between overall health – as measured by weight gain – and sleep status. Sleep affects the body’s ability to regenerate, heal and metabolize. Without this time to process, the body will not function optimally. Some studies suggest that a lack of sleep disrupts serum leptin and ghrelin levels which results in an increased appetite and hunger. So self-motivation to say “no” to that 3pm cookie isn’t just will power, its lack of sleep haunting you in the middle of the day!
Weight loss is not an easy task. It can be slow going and we are constantly tempted by savvy marketing to veer us off course. Your home can be your safe place. Make your bedroom and pre-bed routine a healthly part of your weight loss strategy. Getting 7-8 hours sleep per night is one tool in your toolkit. Dealing with stress levels, nutritional choices, portion sizes, low energy and/or low motivation also need to de evaluated. Talk to your naturopathic doctor to have a comprehensive evaluation. You need to sleep each night, so make it as healthy as possible.
Top 5 Sleep Strategies
1- Have a consistent bedtime routine
2- Go to bed at the same time every day – even weekends
3- Sleep in the dark – eliminate nightlights, streetlights, alarm clock lights and/or mobile phone lights.
4- Dim the lights 45min before bedtime
5- Avoid mental stimulants 1 hour before bed: caffeine (including chocolate), credit card bills, sugar and sweets etc.
Written by: Dr. Andrea Proulx – Naturopathic Doctor
www.DrProulx.com follow Andrea on twitter @DrAndreaProulx