Lack of Sleep Linked to Weight Gain For New Moms
Sleep is essential. It is the time when our bodies replenish, repairing the
physical wear-and-tear we suffer during the day. However, our
"always-on" culture has created a
sleep-deprived generation. Cell phones,
computers, PDAs and 24-hour cable television keep our brains stimulated. The
result is fatigue, poor health and, surprisingly,
According to a study conducted by Kaiser Permanete and Harvard Medical School/Harvard Pilgrim
Health Care, it was found that moms who got less than five hours of
sleep a day when their babies were 6 months old were three times more likely to
be carrying 11 extra pounds at the child's first birthday than those who get
seven hours. The bottom line –- those extra two hours of sleep could make
all the difference.
Other studies have shown that persistent
sleep deprivation causes hormonal
changes that may stimulate appetite.
Sleep, Hormones and Weight Gain
Leptin and Grehlin are hormones that help the body control
gain and loss. Leptin suppresses appetite, while Grehlin increases appetite
and may prevent a person from losing weight.
When lack of sleep becomes a chronic problem, levels of Grehlin increases,
causing greater appetite, and levels of Leptin decrease. Regardless of diet
and exercise, it's possible that some
obesity is caused, or made worse, by
Research subjects who slept only four hours a night for two nights had an 18
percent decrease in leptin, a hormone that tells the brain there is no need for
more food, and a 28 percent increase in ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.
The Stages of Sleep
In order to understand the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain it
is important to know how much quality sleep we need. Experts believe that
adults require seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Studies have
shown that decreased amounts of REM sleep can lead to an increased food
intake. The two phases of sleep are referred to as non-REM sleep and REM
sleep. The "REM" in both phases stands for "Rapid Eye Movement."
Sleep Tips for New Moms
Don't check what time it is
This may sound like a weird tip, but to me it is quite important. Some new
moms get into the habit of checking the clock all night - calculating how long
it's been since the last feeding and how long they're likely to have till the
next. The consensus appears to be that this both disrupts sleep and increases
the feeling of exhaustion.
So don't focus too much on how much you are awake. Just do what you have to do
as fast and easy as you can and head back to bed.
Go to bed when your child does
This one isn't much fun. The free time with your spouse (and yourself!) is
But if you' are an exhausted new
mom - honestly - how much fun are you to be
So if you're really tired, go to bed early at least one night a week or so. Do
this even if you don't want to or can hand over the first nighttime feeding to
Get off your feet, relax on the couch,
and stay off the phone. Don't stress if you can't fall
asleep. Just lying down for a half hour can be very restorative.
Enlist help for nighttime feedings.
One of the best ways to get a solid stretch of sleep is to have your
husband or visitor work the night shift for you.
It's easier to turn
feedings over to someone else if you're bottle-feeding, but moms who are
breastfeeding can introduce a bottle of
breast milk early on so that someone
else can provide relief in the middle of the night. An extra bottle of pumped
breast milk can be liquid gold, equal to an extra two or three hours of sleep.
Find snooze-inducing activities.
For those moms who have trouble falling asleep even after a draining day
of caring for a new baby, it might be tempting to decompress in front of a
computer or television. But that may be counterproductive.
The light from the computer or television can be very stimulating and keep you
up. The radio can be a perfect sleep aid.
Opt for a massage
Relaxation techniques, such as
can reduce the frustrations, stresses, and other turmoil that lead to a night
of tossing and turning-and anxiousness and poor performance during the
daytime. It seems we all have the need for human touch. Therapeutic massage
can have both an internal psychological benefit and an external physical
benefit-improving physiological responses for the body.
Massage can also help a couple reconnect. It can be a great way to
re-acquaint with your partner. You might want to give each other a nightly
massage before sleep.
Don't rely on coffee.
Although gulping down a cup of coffee first thing in the morning can give you
the jolt you need to be alert, but overdoing it can mask your need for sleep,
and may actually prevent you from falling asleep when you finally lie down.
Keep your bedroom restful
Is your room, home to every unwashed bodysuit, un-repaired toy, and
un-put-away holiday decoration? Lying in bed surrounded by reminders of chores
can make you too tense to drift off. So if you can't move the stuff somewhere
else, try covering it or hiding it with a screen. Then turn off all the lights
and lower your thermostat: Experts believe darkness helps set your internal
clock to sleepy time, while coolness mimics the way your internal temperature
drops during the night.
Realize that the sleepless nights won't go on forever.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), healthy babies usually
settle into a routine in which they sleep for longer stretches at night (five
or more hours) by 2 to 3 months of age. Almost all babies should be able to
sleep through the night by the age of 6 months, but the AAP acknowledges that
there can be a significant discrepancy between this statistic and what happens
in any given family on a given night.
Get some fresh air and exercise
A workout can help you sleep better -- if you do it at the right time.
Exercising close to bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep, whereas
exercising in the late afternoon may be sleep promoting.
Mornings are also a good bet; early sunlight can reset your inner clock,
helping you get to sleep at night. One mom who needs no convincing about the
power of exercise is Zeis, the onetime shower snoozer. For the past year,
she's made a habit of running while a sitter watches her daughter. She sleeps
more easily and soundly now at night -- and aims to keep working out after
her next baby comes along. "Then, with luck, I'll do all my napping in bed."
Understand the battle. Babies have shorter REM cycles than adults,
so they are rested after shorter amounts of time. "Sleep when the baby sleeps"
is advice that will leave you permanently tired. The statistics are pretty
clear that sleep deprivation slows your thinking and reaction time. So, a bit
more sleep should make it faster to get chores done and leave you clearer
headed to deal with baby needs and emergencies. Isn't that enough motivation
to ask others for help and to sleep without guilt?
Other things moms find relaxing: warm baths; soft music; cuddling with
pets; decaf tea or milky cocoa;
stretches; and yes, even