Sleep and Weight Loss, or Lack Thereof.

Day 27. National Blog Posting Month.

Sleep deprivation is starting to catch up with me.  When I was at the office the other day after baby J had his vaccinations, I got on the scale.

Big mistake.

Since I last weighed myself (about 1 month postpartum), I gained weight.  Ugh.  And I have no one to blame but myself and the baby.

I blame myself because of the damn sweet tooth that I still have.  Now, granted, I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but in the past it was tempered by the exercise I was getting.  Oh, and Hallowe’en. I blame the Hallowe’en chocolate that’s in my house.  We normally get about a hundred kids at Hallowe’en but this year the weather was cold and rainy and we were left with far too much.  So much, in fact, that I would have 3-5 little chocolates every night after dinner.  Those calories add up, dammit!

Forget the fact that I have also started running.  It’s not doing a god-damn thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be doing it and I will not quit, but it’s fucking hard this time around.  [Sorry for the language.]  I am running with about 15-20 lbs of extra weight and my legs feel like two lead pipes.

I need to lose some weight, but that’s going to be hard because of the second reason I listed above.

My adorable little baby boy.

He is exclusively breast-fed and is waking up at minimum of thrice a night.  I know, I know, boo hoo, poor me.  I could easily give him a bottle of formula when I go to bed and that might give me an extra hour or two of sleep.  But, I’m not ready to go there just yet.  I am enjoying our breastfeeding relationship and I don’t want to give it up yet.

But lordy lord, this fragmented sleep is wreaking havoc on my metabolism. Meaning that I have NO metabolism right now.  I can’t burn anything, despite the running.  Instincts tell me that a good night’s sleep is important for weight loss.  The better I sleep, the better I feel, and the healthier I eat.  I can even see it in my husband.  When he sleeps well, he eats sensibly throughout the day (ie. less snacking), exercises more efficiently, and keeps his weight stable. Once his sleep is affected (like it is now), eating habits go out the window and he’s too tired during the day to exercise.

Of course, this is all just conjecture on my part.  Is there any evidence to support my theory?

Why yes, in fact there is!

A quick Google search directed me to this WebMd website, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/lack-of-sleep-weight-gain.

“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.

On average, we need about 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night, he says. “If you are getting this already, another half hour will not help you lose 10 pounds, but if you are a five-hour sleeper and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.”

Exactly how lack of sleep affects our ability to lose weight has a lot to do with our nightly hormones, explains Breus.

The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.”

 More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.

“You are eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived,” Breus says.

A search of Google Scholar led to some more findings:

  • Investigators looked at the association between self-reported usual sleep duration and subsequent weight gain in the Nurses’ Health Study in 1986 and followed over 60,000 women for 16 years. Women who slept 5 hours or less gained 1.14 kg more than did those sleeping 7 hours over 16 years, and women sleeping 6 hours gained 0.71 kg.
  • A systematic review published in 2012 suggested that short sleep duration was independently associated with weight gain, particularly in younger age groups.
  • The Quebec Family Study looked at sleep duration and weight gain. Duration of sleep was characterized as short (5-6 hours), average (7-8 hours) and long (9-10 hours).  The risk of developing obesity was elevated for short and long-duration sleepers as compared with average-duration sleepers, with 27% and 21% increases in risk, respectively.
  • Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 looked at changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in a cohort of men and women over a 4 year period.  Not surprisingly, an increased daily consumption of potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats resulted in an increase in weight while increased daily consumption of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt had the opposite effect and resulted in overall weight loss. Interestingly, more weight gain was seen in individuals who slept less than 6 hours and more than 8 hours per night.

So, based on these findings, it would appear that I am NOT going to be successful in losing the pregnancy/baby weight until the little man is sleeping through the night.

Sigh …

Alright then, pass the Chicago Mix.

4 thoughts on “Sleep and Weight Loss, or Lack Thereof.

  1. 1. I love your evidence based approach!
    2. I was on call the other night and I ate a coffee crisp bar and an range juice box for dinner… at 11:30, then a bag of popcorn at 4am. It took all my might to not scarf down a loaf of bread smeared in PB when I got home in the morning. Funny how sleep deprivation does that to your appetite.
    3. Have you thought about weight watchers? I started it about 2 months PP when I was sick of not losing weight. I lost all my baby weight in a few months, even with my BF allowance and with hardly any exercise. AND, baby wasn’t yet sleeping through the night, either.

    • I haven’t considered WW or any other diet, for that matter. I am a firm believer that most, if not all, diets are fads and a bad way to lose weight. I know WW isn’t like that and have seen it be successful for many patients, it’s just not for me.

      • I think for me it forced me to concentrate on the portion control and stopping to think about what I eat before I eat it… Decide if it’s worth it. Those are habits I’ve really kept up with. I had about 20 pounds to lose from baby #2 weight and an additional 10 left over from baby #1. I ended up losing 50 and I’ve only gained back 10 after I stopped breast feeding. The habits have been really good!

  2. Pingback: My Running Mojo …. | The Urban Dr. Mom

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