This Article is About
weight gain
stress hormone cortisol
glucose tolerance
insulin resistance
stress and anxiety
ghrelin
lack of sleep
How To Deal With Insomnia And Weight Gain
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The more we know about weight gain the more we recognize that it is about much more than just eating too much. Many factors come into play and the connection between lack of sleeping and weight gain is one of them. If you suffer from insomnia you are not alone. Insomnia is a problem for 1 in 3 people at some time during their life, and of those that suffer from stress and anxiety half also experience insomnia. The Better Sleep Council reports that insomnia may cause as much as $150 billion annually in lost productivity, while employers may pay as much as $3200 more in medical care costs for workers who suffers from insomnia.

What is the connection with weight gain? The answer may be due in part to insomnia's impact on two hormones, ghrelin which stimulates appetite and leptin which signals you to stop eating because you are now full. A 2009 study at UCLA and published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, found that insomnia may cause increased ghrelin and decreased leptin, and if this is what your insomnia is creating it will be very difficult for you to hold back on eating too much. Other studies have connected lack of sleep to decreased glucose tolerance and increased insulin resistance both of which are associated with weight gain.

A big factor in insomnia is overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol which has many jobs, one of which is to keep us awake. When your life and your hormones are in balance, blood levels of cortisol increase in the morning and gradually taper off during the day so you can relax and fall into a deep refreshing sleep. If you need an extra kick to get going in the morning, caffeine helps by causing a jump in your cortisone. Cortisone is also secreted throughout the day in response to stress, and since many of us do not get the exercise we need to burn off the stress, cortisone levels remain high into the evening, keeping us awake and making a good night's sleep elusive.

So what's the best way to beat insomnia due to stress and cortisol? You have a number of options.

Reduce caffeine intake. I know this is an unpopular suggestion in our coffee culture, however if you are serious about sleeping better, give it a try. If you are really hooked on coffee, taper off the caffeine gradually by mixing regular and decaf grounds and gradually increasing the proportion of decaf. Choose your decaf carefully avoiding the type that is processed with chemicals. Another good option is green tea which has less caffeine and also a goodly amount of the amino acid theanine which offsets some of caffeine's jittery impact.

Try Adaptogen Herbs. Some of the more common adaptogens include reishi (which in my personal experience is a big help in detoxing from caffeine), a Chinese herb found in certain mushrooms, rhodiola rosea, favored for centuries by natural healers in Siberia and other cold places or ashwaganda, from the Ayurvedic tradition in India, to name just a few. Adaptogens impact your whole body helping to balance your various organs and systems. Since cortisol overproduction is an issue of imbalance, an adaptogen may help both sleep and weight loss.

Exercise regularly. If you could eliminate all the stress from your life, or better yet find a way to react in a calm way to to daily challenges, then maybe you could get away with less exercise. Since all of that is a worthy goal, but hard to achieve, meanwhile, regular exercise is essential. It burns off the stress helping your muscles to relax and helping to balance your blood sugar as hard working muscles need more glucose than those which are sitting in front of the TV. Start with 30 minutes at least 5 times a week and work up to an hour a day. You'll be glad you did.


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