Those of you who have been on the Lighten Up Course know that the course includes techniques from experts on sleep quality and, amongst other things, a weekly challenge to cut out alcohol.
Lack of sleep causes weight gain – Excess alcohol can lead to weight gain – Alcohol disrupts sleep.
By staying below the sleep-disruptor threshold it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Let’s talk sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in regulating hormones that control appetite, such as ghrelin (which stimulates hunger) and leptin (which signals fullness). When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin levels increase, and leptin levels decrease, leading to increased feelings of hunger and potential overeating.
Sleep also influences your metabolism. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body may become less efficient at processing and burning calories.
Poor sleep can sometimes lead to late-night snacking or unhealthy food choices, which can contribute to weight gain.
Let’s add alcohol into the mix.
Calories aside, because we all know alcohol contains calories and these calories add up quickly, especially consumed in large quantities. Alcohol can also lower inhibitions and impair judgment, so when the drinks are poured with some chips on the side, chances are you’ll eat the chips too!
When you consume alcohol, your body recognizes it as a toxin and makes your liver’s primary goal is to metabolise and eliminate it from your body. The liver contains enzymes, primarily alcohol dehydrogenase, which break down alcohol into acetaldehyde, and then further into acetic acid. Women have a lower tolerance to alcohol than men, partly because they are smaller, but they are also unable to metabolise alcohol as efficiently as men because we have less alcohol dehydrogenase.
Now while the liver is working really hard to get rid of the alcohol, it temporarily inhibits the metabolism of other nutrients, including carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This means that if you consume alcohol and food simultaneously, the calories from the food are more likely to be stored as fat because the liver is busy processing the alcohol.
Back to sleep
While alcohol can help you relax and initially make you feel drowsy, it disrupts the natural sleep cycle and reduce the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is essential for restorative sleep. This can lead to poor sleep quality overall.
As your body processes alcohol, it can lead to more frequent awakenings, and reduction in deep sleep stages.
Many of us enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner and most of us know what our threshold is when alcohol consumption becomes a sleep disruptor.
Giving up alcohol altogether may not be on your agenda, but if interferes with your sleep and you need to lose weight, it’s worth paying attention to your personal threshold. Work out how much you drink without experiencing negative effects on your sleep or weight.
Once you know your sleep-impairing alcohol threshold, make a point of drinking slightly less.