Sleep-care Is Part of Self-Care
How would you rate your sleep-care on a scale of one to ten: 8, 4, 1, minus 6? Getting enough rest and high-quality sleep is crucial to your mental and physical health—and to improving your relationship with food. It’s amazing how many smart and successful dysregulated eaters think of sufficient sleep as incidental to their lives. To me, it’s a sad indication of poor self-care.
Thomas Rutledge explains the importance of sleep, especially in relation to weight, in “Three Ways Your Sleep Habits May Cause Weight Gain” (Psychology Today, 6/20/19, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-healthy-journey/201906/three-ways-your-sleep-habits-may-cause-weight-gain?utm_source=pocket-newtab, accessed 6/22/19). Here are some take-aways from his article which assesses the research in the area of sleep’s impact on eating and weight.
- Sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise, even if they try to push themselves to suit up for a run or start the car to get to the gym before it closes. Due to sleep deprivation, people might exercise, but “for shorter periods and at lower intensity levels.” He points out that such a pattern might affect our weight.
- Night light exposure might cause weight gain by interfering with the regulation of sleep cycles, including increasing eating due to decreased production of leptin (our satiation hormone) and increase the production of ghrelin (our hunger hormone).
- If sleep is disrupted often, people are awake more, which gives them increased time to think about food and consume it. Moreover—and this is important for emotional eaters—when we’re sleepy, we crave carbs.
Rutledge makes the following suggestions to improve and get sufficient sleep.
- Get treatment for sleep apnea and insomnia. I would add to not only get a sleep apnea machine, but to use it every night, which at least some of my dysregulated eating clients don’t do.
- Reduce intake of fluids and light exposure before bedtime (including any technology with a screen).
- Utilize past strategies that have helped you sleep, including relaxation exercises.
Rutledge ends his article by talking about ways to change how you think about sleep. It’s not incidental to health, but a major factor in well-being. It’s not taking time away from your life but adding quality time to it. Think about loving sleep as much as you say you love food. Value it and crave it. Make it a top priority. My motto has always been that I’ll put up with a lot, but don’t even think about getting between me and my sleep!