Surprising Links Among Stress, Sleep, and Your Weight

Stress and sleep are often overlooked but fundamental components in weight management.

Weight Management.

They are all connected.

Your body is comprised of many chemical processes that ebb and flow throughout the day. You are given cues for when you are hungry and full, when to fall asleep and to wake up, when you need a surge of energy and when your body needs to slow down.

Many of these chemical processes are regulated by the dispersal of our hormones and neurotransmitters, and often occur in relation to one another.

But when any of these cycles are disrupted, your body will make adjustments to attempt to bring itself back into balance. However, when your body is unsuccessful, it creates a vicious cycle that wreaks havoc not only on your body, but also on your mental state, your interactions and relationships with others.

Remember, just because you're sleeping doesn't mean that your body isn't working to put itself back into optimum health.
Your sleep can often be disrupted by stress, which is another detrimental factor in weight management.

Stress can be divided into two camps:
  • internal biological stressors: undiagnosed medical issues that tax basic bodily functions, like insulin production or thyroid disorders
  • external stressors that affect our mental and emotional states: child care, financial burdens, parent care, committing to too many activities
When stress affects your sleep patterns, then the sleep deprivation can affect your ability to handle stress the next day. Left unattended, these two elements can continue to feed each other in an endless loop, and trigger more metabolic processes that will affect your cognitive behaviors and therefore your physical choices.

Here are some hormones and neurotransmitters that work together to regulate are bodily functions:

     • Cortisol will wake you up, give you a boost of energy, and diminish throughout the day.
     • Melatonin triggers the body to rest and sleep and diminishes through the night.

     • Adrenaline provides an immediate surge of energy as a fight or flight response to stress.
     • Cortisol increases the flow of energy as a fight or flight response to stress at a slower pace than
     • Insulin allows energy to be transported into cells for storage and out of cells for consumption.

     • Grhelin triggers hunger.
     • Leptin indicates satiety or fullness.

     • Serotonin regulates your mood in response to anxiety.
     • Dopamine relates to your impulse control.

If any of these are unfamiliar to you, not to worry. When your body is in balance, they are functioning as designed. However, if any of these, or any other metabolic processes, are disrupted, your behavior may have altered in compensation.
One of the biggest responses to a lack of sleep and stress is overeating and drinking. Not only is the quantity a major factor, but the quality of your comfort food and beverages. Your body will crave things high in sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. It is difficult not to  succumb to the hunger cravings. Later we may feel the physiological reactions to consuming the unhealthy food, and feel regret and frustration about it.

Often this unhealthy eating is coupled with  sedentary activities like extensive amounts of screen time on a variety of devices, which,if left unchecked, can lead to significant weight gain. Then we get another night of bad sleep. Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey makes this comparison:
Sleep debt is like credit card debt. If you keep accumulating credit card debt, you will pay high interest rates or your account will be shut down until you pay it all off. If you accumulate too much sleep debt, your body will crash.
As each individual is chemically unique, your body will respond differently to different stressors, sleep patterns, and behavioral reactions. When these cycles become chronic, or the new normal, you may be at risk for even more health problems.

Recognizing that you have fallen into a sleep-stress cycle is your first step to making changes in your lifestyle. As you investigate the biological or social factors that have prompted this descent, the experts at Metabolic Medical Centers can help you determine your best course of action for proper nutrition and meal management to bring you back into peak health.

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