Sleep & Eating because we're tired

Anyone who has ever worked with me on their health and fitness knows that I take a very holistic approach.  No, this doesn't include weird chanting, but it does mean that we don't just look at exercise or food, but we look at the things in your life that affect your ability to stick to your food and exercise program and maintain a healthy body.

Sleep is one of these things.  So many times a client will present a food diary with a few extra treats on it, and after a bit of talking, we find out that the only reason that pops up  is "I was really tired that day".  Now that the lightbulb has been lit, we can address the food situation from a different angle...really, what's the point screaming at you to just stick to your food plan if food isn't the original issue.

Tiredness from a long day or from bad sleeping patterns makes us crave carbohydrates and sugars mostly.  Without thinking about how tired we are and doing something logical about it, we go and rev up the glucose train by eating, which can further feed the situation of a poor sleep.

Firstly, why are we so tired?  The human body has been very well designed and is quite capable of rising at sunrise and falling asleep when it's dark.  It does this through it's natural fluctuations in melatonin and cortisol.  Now, say we have a well functioning machine like a conveyer belt for example, what happens when we shove a spanner in the mechanism...that's right, it stops working.  Sleep is much the same, we throw a spanner in and the sleep machine is disrupted.  Here are just some of the spanners:

  • Stress, depression and other disruptive emotional states and disorders throw the body out of balance and can affect sleep
  • Hunger (real hunger, not that fake hunger that we think we have)
  • Too much food keeping the digestive system working too hard at night
  • Too much light in the room affecting melatonin
  • Climate of the room, too hot or too cold
  • Certain vitamins at night, eg B-Vitamin complex / Berocca
  • Exercising too close to sleep revs up the nervous system and can make it difficult for some to sleep.
  • Extremely late nights or very early mornings (earlier than 5-6am)
  • Electrical devices in the room (TV's on standby, cellphones, computers on standby etc).  They all emit frequency, and can disrupt yours.
  • Parasites
  • Blood Glucose dysregulation
  • Congested and sluggish liver

Now, these things can affect our sleep, but what if we're sleeping ok, but still tired, here are some things to look out for:

  • Iron or B Vitamins.  Lower levels of these nutrients can lead to a loss of energy through the day
  • Illness.  The mucus of a cold is a sign that your body has found the invader and is packaging it up and eliminating it, but days before that, we feel tired as the invader attacks our body.  Usually we're not really aware of this.
  • Mental tiredness from a long day of using the brain
  • Emotional tiredness, from a day of feeling bullied, unappreciated, pressured, dissatisfied...etc
  • Real physical tiredness from a day of physical work
  • Hormone, adrenal and toxicity issues

Now let's be logical about all the reasons listed above.  In only one of these cases would food be the cure for tiredness - can you guess which one it applies to?

But the first hurdle for any of us is to be able to stop and admit we are tired and ask ourselves why are we tired.  Then we need to accept that food is not the fix.  From that point we have now opened our minds up to moving forward and getting the tiredness sorted.

So how do we fix the tiredness?

We have to know what it's coming from first.  Here's my story to illustrate the point.  I have suffered depression much of my life (yes, proper depression).  Years ago, I had a job where I would roll out of bed at about 8.30 and end up at work around 9.15.  At this job for a period of time I remember feeling completely washed out and taking naps around 12.30.  I'd always 'feel' too tired to go to the gym and usually skip sessions and I'd spend my evenings medicating with food sitting on the couch.  I'd always wake through the night a few times and on the weekends I'd get out of bed around 2pm.

There were a few things going on here: My emotional state made me 'feel' tired and my bedrooms have always been subject to street lighting which contributes to the broken sleep.  I was also eating a large volume of crap food which was making me inflamed, achy and fatigued.  Now, I didn't know anything about the human body back then, and to sort my energy problems took years before I became aware.  

Skipping forward to today - I have a bedroom with absolutely no light shining in at night and my depression is under control on a day to day basis.  My diet is wonderful and my organs all run pretty well so they're not waking me up either at night.  Sleep is quality and I can do a 5am - 7pm workday without yawning or needing a nap.  But I have to point out, this took years of trying to work it out...I had no one to help with it, and had to work it out myself.

But hopefully you don't have to.  This blog is to make you aware of what can make us 'tired' so you too can start to move in the right direction and leave the food in the fridge.

A bit more on sleep and your body

  • Sleep is the time of day that our bodies grow and repair.  Various hormones are release only at night to perform these functions.  Without proper rest all your organs will suffer, and the one you notice the most is your brain.
  • For those of us trying to lose weight, a poor quality of sleep can lead to rises in cortisol which increases abdominal fat.
  • Building muscle doesn't happen in the gym, it happens while we sleep - Growth Hormone is released during sleep.  Growth Hormone is also a powerful fat burning hormone.
  • A sleep cycle is 90 minutes, in this time we go through 5 stages of sleep from light to heavy.  If you wake in the middle of the sleep cycle you will wake groggy and disoriented, waking at the top of the cycle will have you feeling refreshed.  This is a good point to remember if you can't get a full 8 hours, try and program your sleep time at 90, 180, 270, 360 minutes.
  • Dreams that we remember typically occur at the top of the cycle when we're sleeping lightly.  If you're remembering a lot of dreams and feeling tired the next day then you may not be getting enough deep sleep.  Remembering dreams but feeling great the next day, possibly means that you are going from one sleep cycle to the next quite well, but still able to recognise a dream in the light sleep.

A couple of things for you to check now:

  • How are you feeling?  Is there some emotional state that needs addressing?
  • How is your bedroom?  Cover up alarm clocks, turn off all lighting, and invest in some dark curtains.  Check the temperature of the room and the temperature of you.  If you need an extra duvet, hot water bottle or thermals to help you sleep better, then just do it.  And of course, the reverse is true in summer.  Remove or switch off electrical devices.
  • How is your nutritional and physical activity status? Too much, not enough, not the right stuff?
  • How's life?

As Benjamin Franklin said: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise"  

Contact me for help with your sleep or your tiredness eating