*Note from Sarah: Here is the 2nd installment in the sleep series by guest blogger Dr. Kirk Parsley, M.D.! Please share this important info and as always, enjoy!
Sleep, Fat Loss and Appetite
I often tell my clients about a quote I heard probably 15-20 years ago. The quote was from Depak Chopra, and while I might be slightly off in my 20-year memory, it goes something like this; “If you want to know what your mind was like last year, look at your body. If you want to know what your body will look like next year, look at your mind”. Sage advice for sure, but let’s think about why it is true.
When I use the word “mind” I’m not talking about your brain. Your brain is part of it, but as we’ll discuss in this blog, your brain is really just a super computer trying to make sense of an overwhelming situation, while keeping you alive and safe. The most important part of our brain—that constitutes the mind—is our mid-brain. It is sometimes called the lizard brain because it is a very primitive part of our brain that exists in nearly every animal on the planet (even primitive ones like lizards). By in large, this part of the brain is the part that controls our behavior, and emotions. I don’t have time to explain exactly what that means in a simple blog, but I will be discussing it in my book—which is likely about 9 months away.
However, if you’ll take my word on that statement, we can move to the point that I think will be very helpful in reducing your daily struggles. You see our lizard brain not only controls our behaviors and emotions, but it’s also the area that controls sleep. While other areas of the brain get involved in orchestrating sleep, the lizard brain is the conductor of the orchestra. So, it only stands to reason that sleep is associated with mood, emotions, behavior and thoughts. This is one of the big reasons that Sarah and I have been talking so much about sleep, which you can listen to on our recent Podcast that we did together and in the 1st blog that I wrote in this series.
This is very important to know when we are trying to make life-style changes, and let’s face it, most of the time we aren’t getting what we want, and it is because we aren’t behaving in a way that will get it for us. We can’t eat doughnuts and pastries every morning, pizza for lunch, Fettuccini Alfredo for dinner, not exercise, and expect to lose that extra fat that we hate seeing in the mirror. So, we resolve to change our behavior. There are many resources out there to help you reach your goals, but the one thing that isn’t often discussed is how much sleep impacts your ability to change your behavior.
When we sleep, our brains are flushing out harmful toxins from our brain, bringing in nutrients, and allowing multiple areas of our brains to repair, and replenish neurotransmitters and neuromodulators (chemical messengers in the brain, that control how brain cells work and communicate with one another). For the sake of simplicity, I’ll lump neurotransmitters in with hormones, as they are very similar in many ways.
So, if we are not repairing and restoring our lizard brain we are interfering with all sorts of functions that control our behaviors, and regulate our body’s energy sources, and even our body’s hormones. That’s right, the mid-brain is where hormone production is controlled.
What are some of these hormones? Although these hormones aren’t necessarily made in the midbrain, the midbrain regulates the production of melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, growth hormone, thyroid, and many others. It also senses how much these and other hormones are around, and tells our bodies what to do with them.
A few of these are very important for being able to control behavior (like sticking to a diet, or getting yourself to the gym), and also for our appetite control.
When we are sleep deprived we know that our midbrain produces and reacts differently to many of these hormones. For example when we are sleep deprived our fat cell do not produce as much of a hormone called leptin, and our lizard brain doesn’t react as much to the leptin that is there. As it turns out, leptin is the main way our bodies know how much fat we are carrying, and makes changes in our body to either burn more fat, or store more fat. Sleep deprived people store more fat.
Our stomachs produce more of a hormone called ghrelin when we are sleep deprived, and that stimulates our appetite in our lizard brain. By methods that are not fully understood yet, our bodies become less sensitive to insulin when we are sleep deprived. In fact, missing just a few hours per night over 3-4 days can make you temporarily pre-diabetic. Insulin plays many roles in determining what our bodies do with the food we eat too.
A single night of short sleep can decrease testosterone production by 30%, and contrary to popular believe, testosterone is the main sex hormone in both men and women. When we are low on testosterone, we have lower ambition, lower sex drive, lower mood, and decreases in several forms of cognition.
In summary; if your lizard brain isn’t controlling your brain and body in ways that are aligned with your goals, reaching your goals is much more challenging, and much less likely.
If your fat storage is increasing, your appetite is increased, your motivation is lower, your ambition is lower, your mood is lower, your energy is lower, how likely will you be to eat well, stay active, enjoy yourself, and control your stress?
I’ll make the case that it is nearly, if not completely impossible, to make life-style changes, or to fully benefit from those changes while being sleep deprived.
That is why Sarah and I are so passionate about people getting plenty of quality sleep. We have teamed up to teach Sarah’s audience about sleep, and to help them reach their goals. Part of that effort is to encourage people to try our new sleep supplement if they are having trouble sleeping.
Getting enough sleep is important, but the quality of the sleep that you get is equally important. Through life-style modification, education, and supplementation, everybody should be able to get enough high-quality sleep to enjoy their lives, and celebrate their successes in any area.
If you want to learn more about sleep, or the sleep supplement, we have two previous blogs on Sarah’s site, and two more to come. You can also learn more about sleep by clicking here or feel free to post your questions to this post or send me questions over twitter @docparsley. Also, don’t forget to use coupon code “sarah fragoso” to receive 10% off all orders for the sleep supplement!