Sleep – what to do when you can’t sleep!

Everyone will suffer from some form of sleep issue at some point in their lives.  For some though however, it can seem like all of the time.   And for those people it can be inhibiting their ability to burn fat, motivation to eat well and exercise and worse… creating other health issues.  Nothing is worse for belly fat than lack of sleep!

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Belly fat is like a parasite for the body.  It creates a hormonal situation that makes it more likely you will store fat.  It raises stress and inflammation in the body meaning your chances of health are greatly reduced.

When making dietary changes, sleep can also be affected.  This is because the body is adapting and trying to make sense of what is going on.  Remember, the body is always seeking balance but will try to do the best it can with the information it is given.  If there is excess fat – there is imbalance.  If there is lack of sleep, then there is imbalance.  Imbalance can cause lack of sleep and lack of sleep can cause imbalance.  So you can see how you can get caught in the viscous cycle!

For those that have trouble sleeping, often times it can be down to elevated stress hormones – either caused by a change in eating, exercise and other internal or external stressors.  So which stress hormone am I talking about?

Cortisol:

Like nature, we have a natural rhythm and cycle.  Like the seasons come and go, the tide goes in and out, we sleep and we wake.  Some hormones operate in cycles too and Cortisol is one.  We often think of Cortisol as bad.  But it is both good and bad depending on what other hormones it hangs around with.

In an ideal world it should peak in the morning, which in theory, should wake you up ready to go and find food.  You should feel awake and alert.  During the course of the day Cortisol should gradually lower in preparation for the night.

However, due to many lifestyle factors, this doesn’t happen.  Many factors such as diet (think sugar, caffeine, alcohol etc) and artificial light can interfere with this cycle meaning that Cortisol is higher at night or can raise unexpectedly.  This will prevent you from falling asleep or it can wake you up.

I personally am prone to higher Cortisol and therefore am more reactive.  This means even small amounts of stress or lower blood sugars (such as too low on starchy carbs or too much cardiovascular exercise) can interfere with my sleep.

In my case, it’s a hormonal imbalance and so the over reaction is caused by an imbalance.   Basically I am highly strung and for others like me, a low carbohydrate diet or a new exercise regime can worsen it initially.  So what can you do?

Scenario 1: You can’t fall asleep:

Is this you?  You feel wired yet tired and you are tossing and turning wondering if you will ever drop off.  You can’t shut your mind down no matter what you try.  This is low blood sugar levels and the brain will raise stress hormones in response.  It’s alarm bells for the body.

Taking some starch to raise blood sugar before bed is really the only way to help with this.  This may interfere with your ability to burn fat for a couple of hours but not as much as lack of sleep will over the days, weeks or years!  So it’s a case of choosing the lesser evil of the two.

If you wake and this happens in the middle of the night, then go and grab half a banana or couple of oatcakes/rice cakes.

Advice and supplements to take:

  • Daily walking or restorative Yoga/Tai Chi or relaxing massage
  • Magnesium Glycinate 300-500mg an hour before bed.
  • Epsom salt bath or use a transdermal spray
  • GABAgenic teas!  So choosing Tulsi tea, Yogi bedtime tea, Chamomile tea
  • Limit caffeine and stop drinking after 2pm or avoid caffeine completely
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids in powder form before bed.  5-10g in water can help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Use a relax/sleep app or MP3 such as Andrew Johnson

Scenario 2: You wake during the night and can’t fall back to sleep:

Is this you?  You manage to drop off but you wake every night at the same time. Despite being tired you can’t get back to sleep.

Again, your Cortisol levels are being raised likely due to low blood sugar.  My favourite trick for this is to take some peanut butter or a small cube of cheese.  Or a protein shake with nut butter.  Sometimes a little greek yogurt with flaxseed in.  The fat and protein will help stabilise blood sugars longer and so help you go through the night.

You may even want to do this as a pre-emptive measure rather than wait until you are awake.

Advice and supplements to take:

  • 5HTP 100-300mg an hour before bed.  Not to be taken if you are on any anti-depressants.
  • Branch Chain Amino Acids in powder form before bed.  5-10g in water can help balance blood sugar levels.
  • GABArgenic teas!  So choosing Tulsi tea, Yogi bedtime tea, Chamomile tea or passion flower and valerium can help – these work on brain chemistry to help bring calm and lower stress.  Limit caffeine and stop drinking after 2pm or avoid caffeine completely
  • For both scenarios – avoid alcohol completely!  By following Ignite or Fitstop, in time sleep issues should become a thing of the past!

I hope this has helped.  One thing is for sure, a fat controller will REALLY value their sleep for long term health and fat loss!

Big love, small tummies!

Jill – The Fat Controller

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