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Sleep - Why Bother?

Part One - Sleep and Weight Management.

Shakespeare was correct when he called sleep "Nature's soft nurse." There is definitely a healing quality to sleep. This is not just a poetic image but is based on good hard science. This 4 part series of blogs will look at a variety of physical and emotional issues that can be a result of sleep deprivation. Sometimes sleep is seen as a bit of a waste of time - why bother? If we study what happens when we don't have adequate sleep, we can see that conversely sleep is probably the best cure all for a lot of ailments. Sleep deprivation is a hidden epidemic. It has been estimated that sleep deprivation costs the UK economy £40 billion a year (1).

Before I studied the importance of getting a good night's sleep, of course I was aware that sleep deprivation could make me feel tired or moody the next day but I wasn't fully aware of the true value of sleeping well. I hope this blog series will inspire you to prioritise sleep and value it for the free healing it offers.

Hopefully, you are someone who gets a good night's sleep. But have you ever noticed that if you sleep poorly for one night or don't get enough hours, then your cravings for food, especially sweet foods or carbs, can really rocket.

Those of us who don't sleep well can have this underlying desire for such foods almost as a constant nagging feeling. Others might see these individuals as being greedy or out of control but the fact is this may be partly a result of the hormonal imbalance created by poor sleep.

This hormonal imbalance revolves around two hormones responsible for appetite - leptin (2)and ghrelin (3). Leptin signals a feeling of being full. Leptin is released from your fat cells and your hunger is subdued. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is produced by the stomach and triggers a sensation of hunger when we haven't eaten for some time. When these hormones are being produced at the right time then it's relatively easy for us to read the signals from our body and eat when necessary. Research studies have shown that inadequate sleep decreases concentrations of the satiety-signaling hormone leptin and increased levels of the hunger-instigating hormone ghrelin (4). The result being a constant sensation of hunger sometimes even after eating a large meal.

As if this wasn't enough bad news about hormones and sleep, when we are sleep deprived cortisol, which has become associated with stress and the production of belly fat, is also over produced (4).

When I work with clients to help them manage their weight, I have learnt that questioning them about their sleeping habits is a vital part of the work. Using hypnotherapy to try to manage cravings without improving quality of sleep can be unproductive. As well as keeping a food diary, I ask client to keep a sleep diary too. I then use a dual approach - using Hypnosis and behavioural applications to improve sleep and hypnosis to establish new eating habits.

Here's wishing you a good night's sleep and a healthy and balanced appetite.


More about my work as a hypnotherapist can be found here.


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