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More Sleep = Better Running & Fewer Midnight Cravings

Posted Oct 17 2008 9:13pm

A strange thing happened to me recently…I got a full night’s sleep!

Better_sleep_4 For months now I’ve been staying up later and later.  The reasons aren’t important, but the outcome has been noticeable.  Burning the midnight oil has left me chronically tired and most days without the energy level to run as consistently as I’m used to.

Another outcome of my late nights and less sleep is weight gain.
It’s been puzzling and frustrating how I haven’t been able to shed the pounds.  It wasn’t until talking with a friend, a non-runner who has 70+ pounds to lose, that I put it all together.  The friend is working closely with his doctor who says step number one in successful weight loss—even before calorie counting and smaller serving portions—is getting adequate sleep.  He cites two reasons:

  • Without enough sleep the brain will not let the body devote the required energy to exercise, so the desire and the capability to increase calorie burn is just not there.
  • Inadequate sleep produces poor judgment around eating.  The brain just doesn’t do its job managing our cravings, including informing the stomach we’re not hungry.

This is me to a T

When I’m well rested, I can resist calorie-stoked temptations.   When I’m up late, the refrigerator and the cupboard doors swing open magically and beckon me to graze on snacks and leftovers.   I cave in like Cheetos are a god.  So for nearly every night in the last six months I’ve eaten a fourth meal, and generally with no nutritional value and empty calories.

For those who need some scientific basis for all this, here’s the scoop.  Inadequate sleep:

  • interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage.
  • drives down leptin levels, which causes the body to crave carbohydrates.
  • reduces levels of growth hormone, a protein that helps regulate the body's proportions of fat and muscle.

So my experiment these days—I’m always tweaking something with my running— is start an early-to-bed habit.  It’s easy to say, but tough to turn in when I still have favorite blogs to read and posts to write, which I tend to enjoy later in the evening. 

There's no shortage of material and research connecting sleep with weight loss, and here's an interesting piece on how to sleep like an Olympian.

But in the short time I’m getting to bed earlier, I’m finding that energy to run and no more piling on hundreds of calories at midnight!

Better Sleep sign on Flickr by Sodapopper

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