Tag Archives: Exercise

Sleep for a SuperYou

16 May

Sleep is so important for our health and wellbeing and vital for those trying to lose weight.  Just one night of disrupted sleep affects our mood and ability to think clearly, our blood sugar levels, our chances of getting sick or depressed and highly influences the ageing process. When we sleep millions of our cells rest and rejuvenate. We grow new brain cells, repair and rebuild lean muscle and our body produces more of a natural chemical called interleukin-1, which is responsible for organising the immune system. When we don’t produce enough interleukin-1, we become more susceptible to disease.

Ironically I’m writing this before a night shift, mine and I’d say the majority of nurses’ crappiest thing… I’m wondering if doing this work is making me crazy, fat, and a bitch, and turns out it is (oh dear).

091What is it that puts our bodies off balance if we don’t catch enough Z’s??

Sleep deprivation messes with the endocrine system, this disrupts the regulation of energy balance and levels of the hormones Leptin and Ghrelin.

These are hormones which act on the hypothalamus, a portion of your brain that regulates appetite and satiety.

Leptin is produced by the fat cells and is present in the blood stream. This hormone decreases hunger by letting the hypothalamus know that we have enough fat (therefore put the fork down).

Leptin could be one of the hormones responsible for putting weight back on after a diet as it will recognise that fat cells are low, therefore, increase appetite.

Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and increases hunger. This hormone is regulated throughout the day and higher levels are released close to meal times.

Research by Schmin et al, (2008) showed a reduction of sleep to 4 hours for two nights in a row proved to decrease circulating levels of leptin and increased the levels of ghrelin AND increased hunger… So consequently, these imbalances of hormones cause an increase in appetite, and a decrease of that part of your brain that (quietly) perks up and says, ‘’no Kim you don’t need to shove those chips into your face, they don’t serve you, you’re actually full from the last binge of lollies at 1am but if you must…”

This explains why the minute we are overtired our willpower and healthy eating habits go out the window and we find that sticking to such habits become that much harder.

So what can we do about it?

  • Pretty simple, try and get your 8 hours sleep a night where possible. The best time for regulating circadian times is between 10pm and 6am. When it’s dark you are meant to sleep, so avoid excess light in your bedroom. Sleep in a pitch black room as artificial light will trick your pineal gland in the brain to decrease the production of melatonin. This goes for if you are trying to sleep during the day also, blackened out blinds can do wonders.
  • Try supplementing with magnesium. This important mineral plays a key role in the regulation of sleep. Research has shown that even a small magnesium deficiency can disrupt the nervous system and prevent the brain from settling down at night. Magnesium is especially important for muscle recovery if you are training or sweating excessively. Good natural sources include green leafy vegetables, apples, lemons, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.

For fellow night shifters out there or if in general you’ve had a rough nights sleep and need to push on through the day try:

  • Breathing exercises, take big SLOW diaphragmatic breaths by sticking your belling out on the inhale and drawing it in on the exhale. Try and count how long you can take to inhale and exhale. This will increase oxygen to your brain and keep you calm and focused. I do this every hour or when I remember. I definitely do it before heading to the ‘binge table’ and 9 times out of 10 it works to keep me the hell away.
  • Spending time outdoors: Try and break the ‘work-eat-sleep’ cycle by going for a walk or exercising outside. The mental and physical benefits from outdoor training are huge! Some of these great benefits include: increased energy, increased sense of wellbeing and calmness, a greater feeling of revitalisation and positive engagement, decreases in confusion, depression, tension, anger and depression (tree hugging optional).

Tree hugging optional -but get outdoors and exercise!

  • Maca powder: This nutritionally dense superfood helps regulate our hormones and could have a positive effect on Leptin and Ghrelin.  Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when these are regulated they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands. Maca can also do wonders for energy levels as it contains high amounts of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids. Maca root is rich in B-vitamins (the ‘energy’ vitamins) and has high levels of bioavailable calcium and magnesium –sweet! I put a generous teaspoon into my smoothies daily, or I add it to a teaspoon of tahini or nut butter which is bliss.

What do you find useful when ghrelin and leptin strike??


Bowers, E, S. Living with insomnia: Get a good nights sleep. Natural sleep solutions.

Schmid, S, M., & Hallschmid, M., & Jauch-Chara, K., & Born, J., & Schultes, B. (2008). A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men.  Journal of Sleep Research.

Smith, S. (2009). Insulin, Leptin, Ghrelin the 3 fat hormones. Articles Base. http://www.articlesbase.com/health-articles/insulin-leptin-ghrelin-the-3-fat-hormones-933564.html

Coon, J., T. (et. Al) (2011). Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review. Environmental Science Technology.