Sleep deprivation is pretty much the status quo for a good chunk of motherhood. And, we know first hand how it can challenge your mood and mental capacity. But, it turns out there are other undesirable side effects, too – like weight gain (we hate to break it to you). In our efforts to help families with all things sleep related, today we’re sharing how sleep-loss affects weight and what you can do about it.
Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself, but when you’re exhausted, you don’t make wise food choices. “When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods,” says Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Why junk food? A recent study found that sleep loss actually triggers changes in brain function – particularly in the amygdala (which controls basic emotions and desires) and the cortical regions of the frontal lobe (which regulate decision-making). A boost in activity in the amygdala and a drop in the cortical regions leads to a sleepy brain that responds strongly to calorie-rich junk foods like desserts and potato chips, while simultaneously having less ability to control those impulses.
What’s a sleep-deprived mom to do? Until those babes are sleeping peacefully through the night, you can follow these simple steps to help battle the bulge.
Keep the junk out. If you don’t buy junk foods, you can’t grab them when your mental defenses are down. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy munchies like produce and popcorn. Better for you and your family!
Skip caffeine in the afternoon. As much as you may be feeling like you need a three o’ clock cup of coffee, opt for an herbal tea instead. A late day boost can have ripple effects into evening and disrupt your ability to sleep (when the kids finally do!).
Exercise. We know you hear it a million times – exercise, exercise, exercise – it’s the solution to almost all of life’s ills. But, it’s tough for moms to find the time or energy. What can you do? Get creative with squeezing it in because exercise not only helps you stay fit and healthy, it also increases energy levels during the day and helps you sleep better at night. Try doing squats while you brush your teeth and leg lifts while you fold laundry. Lie on your back and chest press your child (if she’s small enough), she’ll giggle with delight and you’ll get buff arms. Think of it not as “exercising” per se, but finding ways to move your body a little more throughout the day.
Avoid foods that disrupt sleep. Heavy, greasy foods make for an active digestive system which can keep the rest of your body from drifting off to dreamland. Even cereal and celery can cause disruptions, too. Check out our list of the top ten foods to avoid before bedtime to ensure you’re not unintentionally depriving yourself of sweet slumber.
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