Most people know sleep is required for optimal health but alot of people don’t know the relationship between sleep, your hormones and fat burning. If we truly understood the power of sleep we would make it our utmost priority and rarely sacrifice our sleep rituals for anything else.
When I speak to women for the very first time, almost all of them have trouble sleeping. It could be that most women I work with are in the 40’s and 50’s and there is a link to age and sleep decline, or it could be that most women come to me for weight loss and there is a link with sub-optimal sleep and excess weight. Regardless, sleep is a core pillar of the work we do to restore hormone balance to the body and increase the bodies ability to burn fat as a fuel instead of glucose.
Some of the common patterns I see are one, the inability to fall alseep at night, feeling wired, unable to switch off, alert or restless and two waking up numerous times in the night, often around 2am. There is a key link when one often wakes at 2am as this is when the bodies cortisol levels have been low and start to rise for the day. For these levels to wake you up suggests a possible imbalance in cortisol usually where cortisol is in excess. This is a scenario I see in women who have been stressed, busy or worried for at least a couple of years (ie most women). If you have been through a shitty divorce, or walking on egg shells in your relationship, if you have been worried about a sick loved one, or grieved a loss, if you are a busy mum, if you are a people pleaser, or feel like there’s never enough time in your day, the list could go on, but this, is what causes cortisol dominance.
[headline style=”1″ font_size=”14″ font_font=”Open%20Sans” font_style=”bold%20italic” font_color=”%23f3c2b3″ font_shadow=”none” align=”center” headline_tag=”h2″]Cortisol impairs the release of melatonin your sleep hormone.
Cortisol’s normal cycle is to peak when the sun rises and taper off as the day goes on giving way to melatonin in the evening so you can rest peacefully. When cortisol is dominant it often doesn’t taper off in the evening and instead surges, giving you a second wind in the evening. This is why you feel wired, alert or hard to switch off, making sleep very difficult to find.
I will give you some additional strategies to improve your sleep shortly however if your cortisol remains dominant due to your lifestyle, sleep will always be illusive. Often women love the idea of holistic health but fail to realise this means accepting that their whole lifestyle is not serving them, letting go and allowing change. For some, this means releasing the need to please everyone, to accept the possibility of failure, to change perception of time to expansive rather than running out, to learn to say no, to invest time in retraining the body and mind to relax and so on.
[headline style=”1″ font_size=”14″ font_font=”Open%20Sans” font_style=”bold%20italic” font_color=”%23f3c2b3″ font_shadow=”none” align=”center” headline_tag=”h2″]Investing in changing your whole lifestyle is the only path to full health, there is no short cut.
In a sleep deprived state our hunger hormone ghrelin is high, leptin our satiety hormone linked to metabolism is low and our body looks for a quick and easy fuel source ‘glucose’ for energy. Fat on the other hand is an energy source that requires oxygen, time and patience – none of which a sleep deprived body and mind has. So the consequence of sleep deprivation is a slowed metabolism, hunger, not feeling satisfied and craving food that will fuel glucose – aka sugar and carbohydrates.
As you can see this creates an perpetual cycle of ill health. The inability to sleep, creates the want for quick and easy sweet or carbohydrate rich foods for quick energy. This does not serve our long term health – or even short term goals as glucose/sugar highs are followed by energy crashes.
So how do we fix this issue?
Well as we mentioned above a large road to wellness involves a holistic approach to lifestyle in particular changing thoughts and beliefs that drive our need to be stressed, busy or worried. But there are other approaches that will support and speed up the process as you work on changing your lifestyle.
We know that the hormones cortisol and melatonin play a role in sleep and so do our hormone seratonin which is the precursor to melatonin. These hormones are triggered and impaired by light stimuli and therefore we can fabricate our circadian rythyms to bring them back into balance.
In the evening when the sun goes down, it is important not to have blue light which is the wavelength of day light. If the body gets the message it is daylight it will not shut down for sleep. Blue light can be found in computers, TV’s, household lights and mobile phones. As you can imagine in our current society we have some very confused bodies and it makes sense that our sleep is disrupted.
If removing blue light all together is not an option, you can filter the blue light by applying a filter to your computers and phones, chosing different bulbs or evening wearing amber glasses in the evening. These practices will help balance out these hormones and improve your sleep.
Sleep Like a Baby
Do you remember what its like to put a baby to sleep? If you are to have them sleep on time, with relatively little fuss they must have a pretty rigid nighttime ritual or routine. If you miss the ritual….. they are fussy and up for hours. So what do some of these rituals include? Bath, dim lights, soft music, maybe a massage? Why do we skip all this as adults and expect the outcome to be different? While a baby’s stress is different to an adults, it is all relative. It takes time to wind down our nervous system enough for us to fall asleep, whether your are a baby….or an adult. Introducing a night time ritual such as a hot bath or shower, dim lights, soft music and a massage with essential oils like lavender and frankincense all help send signals to the nervous system it is time for sleep. A regular night time ritual is one of the most powerful ways to restore your sleep patterns and allow for a deep restorative sleep.
You may need a little extra assistance in the meantime, as you learn to integrate new rituals and change your lifestyle so that your hormones balance and you can have a restful sleep. There are a number of resources and support to help you drift off to sleep. While you can speak to your practitioner about supplementing melatonin, there are also other natural ways to balance the body and induce a calm and restful state. Two of my favourites are herbs and essential oils. You can speak to your practitioner about herbs like Valerian which has anti-anxiety and sedative properties to help wind the body and mind down in preparation for sleep. Some other herbs known to support sleep are Chrysanthemum, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, Chamomile and California Poppy. Make sure you speak to your practitioner as they are not appropriate for everyone. My favourite essential oils to use particuarly for sleep are lavender, frankincense, cedarwood and vetiver. All have been shown to induce a state of calm and improve sleep. I like to use my oils in a bath if I get time, or in my diffuser, a few drops on my pillow or even in a roller diluted and applied directly to the skin. Just make sure they are of therapeutic and food grade as they are absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream. You can find out more about essential oils HERE.
So what can you apply right now to support your body to sleep better so you can burn more fat?