In previous installments of How I Lost Over 100 lbs. & Kept It Off For Over 25 Years, we have discussed more of the mental aspects for proper weight loss and maintenance. The need to switch your paradigm is a must as is surrounding yourself with supportive, non-sabotaging people. Today, How I Lost Over 100 lbs. & Kept It Off For Over 25 Years: Part 5 we will discuss something so intrinsically valuable yet much abused and maligned: sleep.
How I Lost Over 100 lbs. & Kept It Off For Over 25 Years: Part 5
Sleep is crucial. The body needs it. Without it we can’t survive. We spend close to 25 years of our life “in the land of Morpheus.” Now most of us don’t really consider sleep. It is second-nature and instinctual.
Let’s take a quick look at what the body does during sleep. Our brain consolidates experiences from the previous day and cleans up debris. The immune and lymphatic systems do the same. The endocrine (hormone) system re-calibrates your hormones. Your digestive system continues to break down food, shunting glucose and insulin to the muscles and liver. Your entire body essentially is being cleaned and mopped by the various organ systems like janitors late night at my high school.
The studies coming out about lack of sleep is daunting. Getting less than 7 hours a sleep a day increases your chances of acquiring cancer, diabetes, heart disease (heart attacks), persistent chronic infections, and even early death.
Most germane to How I Lost Over 100 lbs. & Kept It Off For Over 25 Years: Part 5, insufficient sleep is connected to weight gain and obesity. This might come as a shock to you. It certainly did to me.
The main theory behind this is that lack of slumber obviates against insulin and glucose from properly being regulated and disposed by the body. If you have listened to Occult Health News or read the articles on Naturopathic Earth, you might already know that insulin, released when we consume sugar and carbs in general, is a fat storage hormone so we want to release it as little as possible and be insulin-sensitive. That is one of the beauties of fasting.
Sleep is key to maintaining your weight loss. Can you lose weight while still not getting much sleep? Perhaps but several factors are militating against it. Let’s talk about my history with sleep.
My Debilitating Insomnia
I could write ad nauseum about my recent struggles with insomnia. But I don’t need to because I have the Sleep Insomnia Chronicles. That talks extensively about my own recent insomnia issues & how it affected my relationships. Take a look at it.
During my weight loss and most of my weight maintenance I slept well. Prior to 2015, I never had a sleep issue. In my adulthood, I noticed that my normal circadian rhythm would be from 10:30-5:15. Not much has changed. Even on the weekends I wake up around 6:00am.
Here at Naturopathic Earth, we have some great articles on ways to remedy mild insomnia and methods to biohack major, debilitating insomnia. I won’t spend too much time on it since you can read those articles (or listen to the Occult Health News episodes on it), but I will say that my insomnia largely has dissipated. So this is one of those How I Lost installments where the personal experience section is rather short. Let’s get back to you.
Sleep Biohacks For You
If you are one of the people who is NOT getting 7-9 hours of sleep a day, you need to figure out why that is. If you are a sound sleeper but CHOOSE to burn the midnight oil, your road to sleep optimization is greatly different than those who are endeavoring to get deep, sound sleep but can’t.
For the former group, I would say nothing you are doing to burn the midnight oil is worth the pernicious effects of reduced weight loss. Netflix binging, social media addiction, even work is simply not worth it.
Let’s remember the indicators for lack of sleep: early death, cancer, infections, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity. No show is worth that…even Game of Thrones!
You might say “Gregory, I’m too busy during the day with work, cooking, kids, and chores that I can’t find time to go to sleep by 11:00pm.” I would retort that you need to look at your daily agenda and find a way.
Normally, there are things we do during the day that are a waste of time and that could implement changes to remedy this lack of time. Like food preparation on Sunday, putting the kids to bed early, and certainly not prioritizing gaming, TV watch, and social media over sleep.
For the latter group who are earnestly trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep but can’t, I feel for you. I was, and might in the future, be in this camp. Like Bill Clinton used to say, “I feel your pain.”
True insomnia can be debilitating, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking. You can catastrophize “If I don’t get more than a couple of hours of sleep, I will end up being put in a psych ward or dead.” This type of thinking, which I’ve mentioned in the Insomnia Chronicles Part 1 and 5, is self-defeating and reinforces the insomnia.
You need to figure out the cause of your insomnia. If it is biological, such as sleep apnea, or due to a medication, then they can be resolved. More often than not, insomniacs tend to be high-strung, neurotic, over-analytical people who can’t turn off their minds at night. (I’m not casting aspersion on you, because I fit this profile.)
What are some practical things you can do to help optimize your chances of sleep? Here are a few. Blue-light, which emanates from screens and LED/fluorescent lights, suppresses melatonin production.
Consider purchasing blue-light blocking glasses and/or dim the brightness on your phone and computer at dusk. If not, your brain is tricked by blue light to think it is still daylight and thus melatonin isn’t produced.
Other subtle adjustments could help as well. If you are the light sleeper type, consider using a ceiling or portable fan to drown out aberrant sounds. Or purchase an ambient white noise sound machine. (See the Amazon ads below.)
Other things you can do. Drink chamomile tea and take a warm bath/shower prior to bed. Take an evening stroll to align your circadian rhythm. Use boring podcasts, audiobooks or even ASMR apps if you are the type who needs to distract your mind to fall asleep.
The last tip is sleep restriction. The best treatment for hard-core insomnia is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). One of the methods employed by it is sleep restriction.
The basis is simple. “Don’t go to your bed until you are sleepy.” Pretty good common sense. Also, “If you don’t fall asleep in 30 minutes, leave the room and engage in a low-stress activity like reading, listening to a podcast, etc and once you get sleepy again, return to your bed.” Rinse, lather, repeat.
If you want more information on sleep biohacking, check the following resources.
If you would like someone to help you on the road to weight loss and maintenance, contact me through the site or on social media (@occulthealthnews). No one has the personal track record I do in keeping weight off so long and no trainer or nutritionist can better relate. Click HERE to see my prices.