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.

Keep It Loud!

Day 10.

An interesting article came across my Twitter feed yesterday.  I follow ScienceNews and yesterday, this article popped up:  “Too little noise is bad for newborns.”

Before I had kids, a friend of mine had twins.  I remember she emailed me from the local Starbucks when the twins were a few weeks old.  I couldn’t believe she was out and about already, nevermind at a coffee shop!  She said something to the effect that her kids were adapting to her lifestyle, not the other way around.  I wondered about the noise and whether they could sleep.  She said the noise actually helped them sleep better!

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to infants and children.  My husband, on the other hand, did. At the age of 12 he was changing his nephew’s diapers.  He remembers his mother always saying how it should be quiet when the baby’s sleep.  When we had our firstborn, she spent the first few weeks of her life swaddled in a bassinet while we watched The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and struggled to stay awake during her feeds. [My husband was such a trooper, staying with me at nighttime for those first few weeks.]

I digress.  My point being that in order to stay relatively sane, we made a point to keep up our normal lifestyle, including the noise factor, in our household.  There was no “Shhh–ssshing” when she napped.  Instinctively we believed that our kids should learn to sleep with some normal amount of household noise.  We were lucky in the sense that our kids were pretty adaptable.  We could take them with us anywhere, really.  We slept over at friend’s places and brought the kids with us.  They were portable.  But more importantly, we never needed their environment to be super quiet for them to sleep.

Which is precisely why the article I mentioned above peaked my interest.

NICUs are loud – there are numerous machines beeping, whirring, all working to keep those little people alive, and lets not forget all the talking going on between the nurses, doctors, and parents.  A few years ago, an American Academy of Pediatrics analysis suggested that all this noise actually exceeds acceptable levels (45 dBA).  In response to this, many NICUs started moving away from open wards to private rooms for these little lives. Private rooms led to quieter rooms.  This should be better for them, right?

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, studied the effects of noise, and lack thereof, on 136 preterm infants. The preterm infants (< 30 weeks gestational age) were assigned to either a ward room or private room.  The primary outcome was developmental performance at 2 years of age. What they found was surprising.  By the time they left the hospital, babies who stayed in private rooms had less mature brains than those who stayed in an open ward. And two years later, babies who had stayed in private rooms performed worse on language tests. ScienceNews summed it up better than I can:

The researchers believe that the noise abatement effort made things too quiet for these babies. As distressing data from Romanian orphanages highlights, babies need stimulation to thrive. Children who grew up essentially staring at white walls with little contact from caregivers develop serious brain and behavioral problems, heartbreaking results from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project show. Hearing language early in life, even before birth, might be a crucial step in learning to talk later. And babies tucked away in private rooms might be missing out on some good stimulation.

The study took place at the urban St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The parents of these 136 babies visited their babies for an average of 19 hours a week, which means that many of these babies spent a lot of time alone. Babies in private rooms might do just as well as — or better than —babies in open wards if parents were around more to talk, sing and snuggle.

Obviously more studies need to be done to figure out how best to nurture and care for these early arrivals, but it did reinforce for me one simple thing – the noisier the house, the better.

So tell me, parents, how noisy are you around your infants?