By Michele Lossino, LCSW
It is estimated that people spend almost 25 years of their lives sleeping. Sleep affects all aspects of our lives, from our mood to our job performance. On average adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Many factors can interfere with your ability to get proper sleep. For example, elevated stress levels may keep you lying awake at night. Too much stimulation prior to bedtime, from the television or computer, can leave it difficult to drift off to sleep. Medical conditions such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea or Restless Leg Syndrome can disturb a peaceful night. Besides leaving you tired and sluggish, sleep deprivation can also affect your appetite.
Two hormones that play a role in hunger are Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that decreases your appetite, telling your body it is full. Ghrelin increases your appetite, signaling your body is hungry. Sleep deprivation decreases Leptin and increases Ghrelin. Therefore, impairing a body’s ability to feel full and instead feeling hungry. This can lead to overeating and subsequent weight gain.
If you are finding yourself feeling tired, waking up several times a night and unable to get back to sleep, try the following sleep hygiene tips:
- Begin a sleep diary – noting the time you are going to bed and how long it is taking you to fall asleep, number of times you are waking up and reasons
- Avoid stimulation prior to bedtime – turn off the television and computer, turn down the lights
- Engage in a relaxing activity – such as reading, knitting
- Take a hot shower
- Avoid time awake in bed – only use the bed for sleeping, not watching television or eating; if you find yourself staring at the ceiling, get out of bed and try again when you are feeling you can fall asleep
- Stay away from caffeine
- Try not to nap during the day
- Access support to discuss possible anxiety and/or depression
If you are struggle with insomnia – trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking too early, try the above tips. Speak to your healthcare professional about your symptoms.