Strategic Sleep

A good night’s rest supports a balance of hormones that impact health and well-being.
Meditate for better sleep and improved health. Photograph by Kent Pilcher

by Donna D’Cruz

“Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” –Hippocrates

Lack of restful sleep, or not getting enough sleep, can wreak havoc with our daily lives, but come to find out, there are also distinct correlations between sleep deprivation and weight gain. Enter ghrelin and leptin, hormones that play a role in regulating weight and sleep patterns.

Simply put, ghrelin makes you want to eat. Leptin, on the other hand, has been shown to decrease the appetite while simultaneously increasing energy. Ideally these hormones should work in tandem to regulate feelings of satiety and hunger, turning on and off in a balanced way. Sleep disturbances can disrupt the delicate balance of ghrelin and leptin, resulting not only in ongoing sleep problems, but also weight gain.

If we don’t get restful sleep, we can end up with too much ghrelin. The body thinks it’s hungry and wants to consume more. Leptin, on the other hand, is closely connected with the regulation of metabolism and appetite. Leptin signals the brain that the body is full, initiating messages that begin in the hypothalamus and end in the thyroid gland, which helps how we store and use energy.

The goal is to try and improve leptin levels, while keeping a healthy level of ghrelin through better, more restful sleep.

There are small but significant steps you can take to sleep better, and thereby gain some control of your metabolism and harness your levels of ghrelin and leptin.

Take time to be more aware of how you are sleeping, and the ways that sleep affects the other aspects of your life. Some easy things you can do to sleep better include avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in the three hours or so before bed. Meditate regularly—in whatever form that works for you to still your mind, your heart and soul. You can utilize the curated Sleep Beditations playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, or Amazon Music—with or without guided meditation, or build your own with the affirmations you need. Take a few minutes of quiet reflection (sans social media) or a brisk walk around the block. Do something, however small it may be, to sleep better than you do now.

We sleep about one-third of our lives. Let’s use that time to better our health—we owe it to ourselves.