Tag Archives: Sleeping

Wanna Lose Weight? Get Some Sleep!

There was some research published within the last year that you might be particularly interested in, should you be in the middle of or about to go on a diet (or you’re interested in your health in general):

This article provides an integrative review of the mechanisms by which sleep problems contribute to unhealthy food intake. Biological, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral mechanisms all underlie this relationship.

When I first came across this headline — the less you sleep, the more you eat — immediately, I was interested. After reading the source article (which I quoted from above), I’m heartened by the possibilities for progress in this area.

Naturally, the food we eat has an effect on how we sleep, but the insight that the fewer hours of sleep we get having an effect on how much we eat, is really important. While anecdotal, I’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand. If I find myself up past my “bedtime,” I almost always am hungry. And because it’s late at night, my executive function is impaired. Put differently, my ability to make good choices might be compromised. In this case, a good choice would be to not eat a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream (or anything sugary, for that matter). A good choice might even be to reach for a handful of nuts or maybe an apple.

The thing that I wanted to mention in conjunction with this research is my suspicion that there’s a cumulative effect. If you stay up late and then pig out on snacks too close to bedtime, invariably, you’ll probably be waking up with less sleep than you need. As a result, your executive functioning (willpower, decision-making, etc.), will be impaired for the duration of the day. By the time you get to the end of the day, you may find yourself more tired than usual such that when it gets to the time when you’d rather go to bed, you might prefer to “reward” yourself or (decompress) by eating some sweets and staying up late… and then it all starts over again the next day. Once you’re out of balance, Newton’s laws have a way of keeping you there.

This reminds me of something I shared a few years ago about Aikido:

One of the exercises we would often do to practice this sense of blending involved our partner (or partners as it was usually in groups of three or more!) to approach us as if they were attacking us. It was our job to then move out of the way, whilst staying centered. The tempo of this exercise usually started out really slow (intentionally). Though, as time passed, our partners would then speed up. You can imagine how it might be challenging to stay centered in this kind of an activity.

During these times of practice, I remember having a bit of an epiphany.

As my partner would approach me and I would step out of the way, I noticed that the quicker (and the more out of balance!) I was, the more out of balance I would be when stepping out of the way for the next partner who was approaching. Think about that for a second: as I stepped out of the way of one partner and I was off-balance, I was that much more off-balance when stepping out of the way for the next partner. It’s almost akin to the Bullwhip Effect.

This idea of eating “after hours” seems to be a mirror image of the off-balance I experienced during the Aikido exercise. So, if you find yourself on the cusp of a diet, I suggest you consider setting (and keeping!) a strict bedtime for yourself. If you’re curious about how to start this new habit, I strongly suggest Duhigg’s book: The Power of Habit.

ResearchBlogging.orgLundahl A, & Nelson TD (2015). Sleep and food intake: A multisystem review of mechanisms in children and adults Journal of Health Psychology : 10.1177/1359105315573427

Babies Aren’t Meant to Sleep Alone: Parenting Without Borders, Part 1

In July, I began working on a series about the book Parenting Without Borders. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to write the second post in that series until about 4 months later. To refresh your memory:

Christine Gross-Loh exposes culturally determined norms we have about “good parenting,” and asks, Are there parenting strategies other countries are getting right that we are not?

With that out of the way, let’s get straight to Chapter 1 — Sleep.

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Without a doubt, sleep is probably one of the most controversial topics when it comes to parenting, in part because if the baby/toddler isn’t sleeping, it usually means that Mamma/Dadda aren’t sleeping and when everyone’s not sleeping… it can be a recipe for disaster. Easing back on the hyperbole, when the parents aren’t sleeping, it makes it harder for them to patient with their young ones, which is usually what’s required most of the time.

In this chapter, I was struck by the range of methods that parents around the world use when it comes to sleep. For instance, it’s probably no surprise to you that in North America, it’s common for the baby/toddler to have their own room and for them to sleep on their own. But, would you believe that across the world, North America stands as an outlier int this regard? That is, it’s far more common for parents in the “rest” of the world to sleep with their baby (this is what’s known as co-sleeping).

For many of the cultures that co-sleep with their baby, they believe it fosters a sense of independence. That may seem counterintuitive at first, but think about it for a moment. If we put the baby in the other room and it needs comforting, it’s not able to get that when it wants. However, if we’re co-sleeping with the baby and it needs comfort, that need is able to be met instantly. Research bears this out, too. Gross-Loh discussed a study that showed children who co-slept with their parents (from birth) later became more independent and self-reliant (than their sleeping alone counterparts).

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The big theme from this chapter is busting the myth that the baby has to sleep in its own room (for its own good). Science seems to support the idea that co-sleeping is better for the baby (and for the parents), but breaking through that cultural norm would be tough for lots of parents. I’ll leave you with one last bit from the chapter that even I bristled at, initially:

In Scandinavia, it’s customary for babies to take their naps outdoors despite the cold winters. (The Finnish government assures new mothers, “Many babies sleep better outdoors in the fresh air than in the bedroom. Sleeping outdoors is not dangerous for a baby.”) Babies are bundled up and left in prams [strollers] on terraces or outside of stores to sleep.

Can you imagine walking down the sidewalk in New York, Michigan, or Minnesota, in the dead of winter to see three or four strollers parked outside with sleeping babies in them!?