By Dr. Natasha Turner for Blisstree.com
Whether you had a pile of deadlines that kept you up until the late hours, or a pile of friends that kept you partying all night, it’s not always possible to get seven to eight hours of sleep. But over time, sleep deprivation will send your appetite through the roof. Here’s how to troubleshoot when you’re running on little sleep -- without surviving on energy drinks and pastries the next day.
Stick To Your Schedule
By eating smaller meals more frequently (i.e. approximately every three hours), you will also help maintain a steady level of blood sugar. An older study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology manipulated “dinnertime” for 22 obese and 24 healthy-weight individuals to determine whether eating behavior changed when standard mealtimes were altered. They found that the obese group ate more when they thought they were eating after their regular dinner hour than they did when they thought that they were eating before. Moreover, skipping a meal entirely causes blood sugar imbalance and raises cortisol levels, which in turn has a host of negative consequences from increasing belly fat to disrupting insulin receptors. When cortisol is too high, we can have difficulty falling asleep or experience frequent waking throughout the night, especially between 2 and 4 a.m. To avoid this unhealthy situation, aim to eat within one hour of rising and then every three to four hours during the day. Stop eating approximately two to three hours before bedtime. This practice will stabilize blood sugar, reduce stress, eliminate sugar cravings and maintain your energy level. Eating at the same times every day will also help to lower excess insulin and reduce the chance that you will overeat later in the day.
Save Your Carbs For Dinner
If your blood sugar levels are on a rollercoaster all day, you can bet your cortisol is as well, which may just leave you with frequent visits to the vending machine for something sweet. You can reduce the stress associated with blood sugar imbalance by eating protein and healthy fats at each and every meal and snack, and save your low glycemic carbohydrate for your dinner. This will boost your serotonin levels and relax you before bed. Some great protein options include eggs, chicken, turkey, shellfish, seafood and fish, while a low GI carb may include sweet potato, brown rice, or quinoa (about a half-cup or one fist serving size). Those of us with higher amounts of serotonin sleep better and longer.
Resist The Urge To Have Coffee After Lunchtime
Caffeine affects everyone differently, so if you’re sensitive it might be worth trying to cut down -- or limit caffeine to the morning only to ensure that you get the perfect slumber later that night. Coffee, if large quantities are consumed, can interfere with healthy sleep patterns, exacerbate anxiety and increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can sometimes even contribute to an irregular heart rhythm. My solution is simple. Enjoying your coffee early in the day will reduce the impact it may have on your sleep. Always avoid caffeine if you endure anxiety, stress or depression. When you do enjoy your caffeine dose of the day, choose a sugar-free latte with one shot of organic espresso rather than coffee and top it off with cinnamon for extra blood sugar control. Always follow your caffeine drink with a 500 ml bottle of water to allow for rehydration and take a high potency multi vitamin and multi mineral to replace lost minerals. One shot of espresso contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Time Your Workouts
Prolonged and excessive cardio causes an increase in cortisol, and in turn will put your sleep on the backburner and send your appetite into overdrive. Since cortisol release during exercise appears to depend on the time of day we choose to work out, I recommend doing any cardio sessions in the morning, since the right amount will lower your stress hormones, and your strength training in the evening when cortisol is lower, to allow for greater muscle growth. All the while, keeping each workout no longer than 30 minutes.
Dr. Natasha Turner a leading naturopathic doctor and founder of the Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto, Canada. She is also the author of the #1 bestselling book, "The Hormone Diet", which is based on her successful clinical approach for creating hormonal balance to gain strength, lose fat and live younger longer. Her second book, "The Supercharged Hormone Diet", became a #1 national bestseller on its first day of release in Canada.