Saturday, January 31, 2009

Key Ingredient - Sleep!!

This past week has been a struggle for me. I didn't want to be a "dieter." I didn't want to exercise and when I did I felt uncoordinated and clumsy and tired out faster than usual. I felt depressed and tried to blame it on hormones. Hummph. I kept asking myself "am I really going to throw in the towel so soon?" I've only lost 15 lbs and need to lose so many more. I've had this vision of myself as a thin, active woman - am I ready to give that up already??

It's no secret that I don't like sleep. I feel like it is a major waste of time. I rarely turn out my light before 12:30 pm and have to get up at 6 am. I like resting (as most couch potatoes do) but the act of sleeping is something I have fought all my life. My mom used to beg me to go to bed when I was younger.

Well, last night I was extremely tired and began to doze while trying to watch a little TV. I fell asleep with my clothes on at 9:30 pm and woke up at 9 am today. Guess what? I felt fantastic! Alert, energized, and in a great mood. Hmmmmm, I thought to myself, how did my attitude change so quickly? What did I do different from the other nights of this week? Oh, I see...I got some sleep!!

I've heard so many reports that sleep is a vital key ingredient to our health. I just didn't want to believe something that simple could make such an impact in how we feel. I did some research (which I love to do on just about anything - love the internet for this tool) and according to this article on a website called losing sleep is a bad, bad thing.

Typical effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • depression

  • heart disease

  • hypertension

  • irritability

  • slower reaction times

  • slurred speech

  • tremors
Now, if this doesn't make me wake up and smell the coffee I don't know what will. I had depression, irritability, and slower reaction times this past week! Trying to diet and exercise was really hard and not just mentally. And in the past I've had these feelings but just thought I was depressed. I knew losing sleep would catch up with me some day, but I've been in denial about just how serious it can be. Sleeping is not a "lazy" thing but in my mind I think I've thought of it that way.

Therefore, as part of my quest for health I am including getting eight hours of sleep as part of my weekly goals. I am too old now to bounce back from lack of sleep. My body just won't tolerate it anymore. So, body, I'm listening and I'm giving you what you need - zzzzzzzz's!

Whew, that was a long one. I'm sure my rant was something many of you already know. I knew it too, but just didn't want to do it. Isn't that what a lot of do with regard to getting healthier? We know what we should eat and that movement is important, we just don't always do it.

Have a great weekend, drink your water, and get some sleep!


  1. Ah yes! I used to have the same problem. The one thing my mom can remember about me as a baby is that I NEVER slept. As I grew older I was just too scared to miss something, so I literally had to be forced to go to sleep. My sleeping habits improved when I got married, because my husband goes to bed quite early, but lately I've been sitting at the computer again until past midnight most evenings.

    I think I know the reason... Lack of natural light. I'm just not spending enough time outside these days. You see, our sleep cycles (circadian rhythms) are controlled by a hormone called melatonin, which is manufactured by the pineal gland. The pineal gland only functions well when natural light and/or sunlight enters the eyes on a regular basis. This gland also has a huge impact on our moods, so Seasonal Affective Disorder is in fact due to a lack of sunlight and/or natural light entering the eyes. Since the pineal gland is part of the intricately connected endocrine system, which also controls our weight, lack of sunlight and/or natural light may interfere with our weight loss efforts.

    The solution is simple... Spend at least 20 minutes per day outside in natural light and/or sunlight with the eyes uncovered. Not always easy when you've got ice storms raging, but if you can do it most days, you should see an improvement. As for me, I just need to water my garden regularly and hang up the washing to get my quota!

    Needless to say, caffeine has an adverse effect on our hormonal system and interferes with natural sleep cycles and weight loss.

    Sorry for the lecture, but I thought you might find it interesting...

  2. Thanks, Hanlie. Great info. I usually get lots of light during the day. It's been very sunny lately here in Texas and my office has two big windows and sunlight comes right in on me. I also ride my bike outdoors most days.

    It's not that I'm not sleeping well, my problem is that I just don't want to go to bed. :)

  3. You got it!! Sleep is sooooo important to our all over health. I also did some research on the subject and found that there are two hormones that are only produced during sleep that aid in our hunger control.

    I have to admit that I love to sleep. So a lack there of has never been a problem for me.

    Glad you are getting your act together and adding more zzzzzzzzz's to your plan.

  4. I felt the same way about sleep almost my entire life. 5 hours of sleep was perfect for me - or so I thought. Even as a teenager, I was up by 7. My friends would get so annoyed by me at sleepovers.

    Even though I thought this was "normal" for me, I suffered most of the symptoms you listed most of the time.

    I had some major surgery about 6 months ago, and it all changed. I can easily sleep 8 hours straight now. I'd like to sleep 12 most days. I don't know if this is a permanent change or if it still has to do with recovery...

    Either way, I have changed the habit so I'm hoping I can keep it up even if I start to feel like I don't need it anymore.

  5. The sleep thing is SO important. Obviously you are realizing that for yourself. Until I got my sleep under control I was not able to make any healthy life changes that stuck.

    I hope you make it more of a priority. Maybe you could look at it like weight loss... Making little changes that will last... like going to be a 1/2 earlier every two weeks? Then you can slowly adjust and learn to do the same with a little less time.

  6. Glad you got some quality rest. You are right it is so important. Always nagging at my guys about it. They are listening about as well as I did at their age ;-). Thank you for sharing the info.

  7. You are not alone. I fight the sleep thing. But for me I like napping during the day and staying up at night. I feel so much better when I get a good night sleep.You will get used to it after you start feeling your energy get better.

  8. I have to say I've never had the problem of not wanting to sleep, but I do know it's important and can really feel the effects if I don't sleep enough. So get to it, sleep! And thanks for the reminder to drink water, I'm off to refill my glass.

  9. Oh my goodness, I LOVE to sleep and would go to bed at 8 pm every night if it were socially acceptable. That's probably not healthy either though I guess :p