Circadian rhythm : Sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. (definition by the National Sleep Foundation)
When we have been awake for a long period of time, sleep/wake homeostasis tells us that a need for sleep is accumulating and that it is time to sleep. It also helps us maintain enough sleep throughout the night to make up for the hours of being awake. Our internal circadian biological clocks, on the other hand, regulate the timing of periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. The circadian rhythm dips and rises at different times of the day, so adults’ strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm, although there is some variation depending on whether you are a morning person or evening person.
There is a great article regarding how your sleep cycle affects obesity here: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/obesity-and-sleep
Another article from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health covers the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in our society. It addresses the causation as well as ways that it can be alleviated. The article can be read in it’s entirety here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1991337/
This article is a lot more scientific, and cites data and experiments that have provided the fodder on which this entire blog piece is written. For those of you who enjoy the data, here you go: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0010062
What does this all mean for you in a nutshell? Your circadian rhythm keeps you awake and asleep at the appropriate times, but it also regulates your metabolic hormones, and therefore plays an important part in weight-loss. When your body is screaming for foods high in fats and sugars, high in sodium or dripping in oil, consider how well you’ve been sleeping, and your levels of stress. All of these factors show up physically on your waistline.
The key to any good night’s sleep is to attempt to resolve potential stressors before bed, if they’re work related, try to leave the issues behind on your desk to deal with the next morning. They don’t belong with you at home, unless your job insists they be handled immediately. If your job is largely sedentary, and you don’t move much, do some light exercise at home, or just keep moving. Dance, stretch, do yoga, but do something. Even a short brisk walk around your neighborhood in a circle is enough usually, to get your body to spend the extra energy it’s held in reserve all day. Trying to sleep when you’ve not worn out your energy reserves is nearly impossible, leading to people seeking answers from sleeping pills which can come with their own set of side effect demons to contend with. They are often far more trouble than the short term benefit they offer, and most are habit forming, and some even state very boldly that they have been proven to cause night terrors. Terror is not the emotion I’d choose to experience while asleep, and I doubt anyone else feels any differently, so sleeping pills are best avoided for a large number of reasons.
If your family is up later than you most nights, your partner is watching TV in an armchair, or up reading by a table lamp next to you, find a way to co-exist so you can get your optimal hours of sleep. 8 hours is recommended for all adults, and there’s plenty of ways to ensure you get that amount of sleep before having to get up and start your routine all over the next day. TIP: If your partner is a reader, and you find the light in your eyes is troubling you with getting to sleep, change the light source. Most large retailers have a camping section where you can find a headlight. The one you want looks like this. The selling point should be that it comes with 3 or 4 different light output settings, since most of the time you’ll want it on low for reading. Plus side to this is, if there’s any strange noises in the night, you can blast the brightest setting and have your hands free. Having a directional head mounted light is not uncomfortable for the wearer, and it keeps the light only on the book and not in your eyes as you try to sleep. If the noise from the television in the other room, or even in your bedroom is causing you to have trouble getting to sleep, consider both a compromise and earplugs. The TV volume can get bumped down a bit, your partner could consider getting used to closed captioning, or you can attempt the soft foam earplugs that hunters commonly use to avoid hearing damage.
Sleeping is crucial, and if people are making it harder for you, it isn’t helping you keep the weight off, it’s actually doing the opposite and fighting you every step of the way. The best way to combat this with the people you love is to provide solutions, and talk about which one might work the best.