Improving Sleep and the Banting Diet

“When a person sleeps less than seven hours a night there is a dose-response relationship between sleep loss and obesity: the shorter the sleep, the greater the obesity.”

Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders

Members are often desperate to get into weight loss mode. So desperate in fact that they often miss massive clues to the real reason they aren’t losing.

It is easy for us to put people on the Banting Diet, tell them to download the banting lists and send them on their way. But there is more to losing weight than food. We mentioned previously that lifestyle has a huge part to play, and sleep may just be the part of your life that is holding you back.

Good-quality sleep is so important to us in so many ways, yet sleep deprivation may be as much an epidemic as the obesity crisis. Various studies, for example, estimate that about 35–40 percent of people in the US do not get sufficient sleep – very similar figures to that country’s obesity rates. Hmmm

Our collective sleep deficit is largely driven, it seems, by the realities of an increasingly frenetic world, in which demands on our time are numerous and difficult to prioritise and sleep is often equated with laziness or weakness.

Whether due to supposedly justifiable demands such as work and socialising, or habitual and even addictive demands such as watching television and surfing the net, sleep is often the activity that suffers. And yet it is absolutely vital for our health and wellbeing – and it affects our weight both directly and indirectly.

In a previous article we spoke about how lifestyle messes with your hormones.

One thing we do know, is that one of the biggest benefits our members experience is better sleep.

The Hormonal Explanation

The direct effect is, as might be expected, because of insulin. Sleep deprivation inhibits the body’s ability to use insulin properly. “Metabolic grogginess” kicks in surprisingly quickly, with insulin sensitivity dropping by almost a third after just four days of disrupted sleep, according to a University of Chicago study. (Due to these potentially dramatic effects, sleep is considered by some to be as important as diet for people diagnosed with diabetes.)

Sleep also affects your body’s levels of leptin and ghrelin, the satiety and hunger hormones: lack of sleep depresses the amount of leptin in your system and stimulates ghrelin, which makes you hungry. What’s more, the after-hours message that you’re feeling peckish is then more likely to be compounded by a bad eating decision because, by this stage, your cortisol levels will have been elevated for an extended period, which leads to an emotional need for rewards combining with poor self-control. Hence late-night snacking. And then day-time snacking. Both bad.

And there is a further layer of woe to add to this self-perpetuating toxic mix. Possibly the gravest effect of sleep deprivation is its impact on cognitive ability and decision-making – so much so that sleep deprivation is often compared to drunkenness. And what do people snack on when they’re drunk? Exactly.

Most importantly, by making bad decisions you jeopardise your entire lifestyle.

What to do:

One of the paradoxes of contemplating the critical importance of sleep is that if you’re not getting enough sleep you may not be thinking clearly enough to realise just how important it is. Trust us when we say, get enough sleep.

10 Hacks to Improve your Sleep

  1. Get enough – This translates to a minimum of seven hours a night for anyone over the age of 18.
  2. Make it a priority – The first thing to do is the simplest and yet probably the hardest: prioritise sleep.
  3. Keep track – Keep track of your sleeping patterns, honestly and accurately, and if you’re getting less than seven hours a night then recognise you have a problem that needs fixing.
  4. Nap – Only recently have the benefits of napping been properly studied, and it turns out they’re numerous. If you can’t get a good night’s sleep, a 20- to 30-minute power nap the next day may be the next best thing. And even if you do sleep well at night, short naps may offer various benefits. Progressive corporates around the world are coming to recognise their importance, with the likes of Nike, Google and Apple providing napping facilities and encouraging employees to re-energise in the workplace. (If you do nap, ensure your naps don’t affect your ability to get to sleep at night.)
  5. Put the screens down – The numerous devices that dominate our lives these days, specifically our smartphones, have been identified as significant sleep disruptors. First, they encourage pre-sleep procrastination. (“I’m just going to watch one more episode / reply to one more email / spend five more minutes on Facebook.”) And second, the blue-light wavelengths they emit, associated with daytime, are sleep suppressors. We recommend banning all screens from your bedroom beyond a certain time, or completely if you are not disciplined enough to follow a curfew. Either way, switch your device to Night Shift so that it automatically reduces the amount of blue light emitted after a certain hour. (The latest iPhones and iPads come with a Night Shift setting; otherwise use a free app such as Night Shift: Blue
    Light Filter.)
  6. Avoid sleeping pills – In general, sleeping pills are bad news; we recommend you avoid them. Certainly, do not self-prescribe. If you’re really struggling, see a doctor.
  7. Exercise – Though not too late in the day
  8. Drink less – Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake and don’t drink coffee after lunch time
  9. Chill hard – Use guided meditation or prayer to clear your mind
  10. Get cold and dark – ensure your bedroom is as quiet and dark as possible, and at the optimum temperature, which is lower than most people think, around 15–19°C.

The most obvious way to improve your sleep is to eat better. We have heard from literally thousands of our members how simply following the Banting Diet has improved their sleep, along with many other ailments.

The fix may require drastic measures, including sleep therapy if necessary, but the most important change is the mental realisation that something must be done. Work less or socialise less, if needs be – and realise that by sleeping more you will do both of those activities better. (The corollary is that too much sleep is also a bad thing: if you’re aged 18–65 you’re going for the Goldilocks zone of 7–9 hours.)

In summary

Good sleep is non-negotiable if a) you want to be generally awesome, and b) you specifically want to keep the weight off. If you’re well rested your metabolic rate will be higher than when you’re tired, allowing you to burn more fat in your daily activities; the hormones that regulate your hunger will be more stable, along with your emotional state, making you less susceptible to unnecessary comfort eating; and your mental acuity and decision-making will be significantly sharper, allowing you to make better eating decisions and stick to your plans with more conviction.

For some compelling science, including the effect of chronic sleep deprivation on weight and general health levels, see “Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders” from Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An unmet public health problem, edited by Harvey R Colten and Bruce M Altevogt (National Academies Press, 2006),
available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov