THE BLOG
06/19/2014 09:01 am ET Updated Aug 19, 2014

Sleep and Weight Gain

There are more ways to gain weight than you can imagine. Eating too much and lack of exercise are the most well known, while lack of sleep is largely underrated.

There are hormonal issues that contribute to lack of sleep and weight gain. I want to address the lifestyle issues, the everyday occurrences that happen when you are sleep-deprived: the many times when you think to yourself, "Why did I just do that?" The afternoon slumps you experience or the uncontrollable cravings to eat, especially sweets.

While studies suggest that taking a cat-nap is beneficial to your health, lifestyles will render cat-naps impossible. Insufficient sleep can be as detrimental to your daily tasks as having an alcoholic drink, and just one drink reduces your resistance to eating temptations. Continued sleep deprivation impairs learning, decreases energy, and causes weight gain.

As any parent knows when you have a young child who did not sleep well the night before, both the parent and child are in for a harrowing day. No matter what you tell the child, the child is too tired and cranky to listen. Try to give a tired, cranky child food, and usually he or she won't eat. Young bodies recognize they need sleep, not food, and their underdeveloped brain does not know how to articulate that request.

As adults the same dynamic are still in play with sleep-deprivation. As an adult you don't have the luxury of having someone to cater to your needs, and very often you turn to food for that same comfort. While your developed brain knows it needs sleep, your lifestyle dictates differently, and you turn to food.

When you are overtired, you overeat. You may not realize how much you overeat because fatigue has erased your awareness. You are tired and cranky and looking for instant gratification and energy.

You get energy from two sources, sleep and food. There needs to be a balance between the two. When there is a lack of sleep there is too much food, and too much sleep can also cause a lack of food. Neither is healthy and conducive to a productive lifestyle. Similar to the flowers in your garden, flowers will get energy from two sources as well: sun and water. Give flowers too much water and not enough sun, and you drown them. Give them too much sun and not enough water and they shrivel. The correct balance is what makes your flowers beautiful.

If you find yourself overeating throughout the day or if you have incurable cravings, especially for sweets, consider your sleep patterns. Your sleep plays a bigger role in your weight management than you might have realized.

Get into a routine of sleeping soundly. If it's the end of the day and you are feeling hungry, realize you are sleepy. Too often people watch TV in the evening and find themselves eating continuously. You are tired, and this is the worst time to start chewing. Your body thinks it's getting energy and wants to continue chewing; it's difficult to stop. What your body really wants is the energy you get from sleep. If you really feel the need to eat something, just don't start chewing. Drink a glass of milk, soy milk, or almond milk. You have just given yourself protein without chewing. Give it a few minutes and you'll find you've satisfied the craving. With a good sleep you will see the difference it makes in your life and weight management. The balance between your sleep and food will give you the energy needed to successfully perform your daily routines and manage your weight.

People who are sleep-deprived gain weight quicker. If you are excited, anxious, or depressed about an issue, it's more difficult to fall asleep. For some they find themselves awake during the night and eating. This is a vicious cycle. Very often I ask clients to keep a pad and pencil by their bed stand. I ask them to write out their problems on the pad and leave it on the bed stand, before they go to sleep. The problems will still be there for you in the morning, but leaving them on the bed stand allows you to free your mind and fall asleep. The pencil lets you to erase them as they disappear from your life. This process allows you to realize that issues will pass with time and constructive actions. Lack of sleep and overeating is destructive and will magnify and multiply any issue you face.

In different stages of your life, eating patterns and sleep patterns will differ. Keep finding the balance between the two and you'll find more energy and enjoy an easier time of managing your body weight.