There have been numerous studies showing that your sleep can affect your weight – if you don’t get enough sleep, this can play a major part in weight gain, and getting your sleep back on an even keel can help you to lose weight. Those who sleep for five hours or less each night are 15% more likely to become overweight than those who get 7 hours.
One thing I was interested to see this week though, was an article suggesting that the time you get up could also be an important factor in weight loss.
As a long-term advocate of Ayurveda, this is something I have known for a long time. Different times of day have different dosha energy, and so there are times of day when it’s better to get up, go to bed, eat a large meal and so on.
This latest study says that people who are exposed to bright light in the mornings had a lower Body Mass Index than those who got their daylight later in the day – regardless of the number of calories consumed. With the clocks going forward for British Summer Time last month, it’s now lighter for longer in the evenings – but what this report shows us is that we should still make the effort to get up and about earlier in the day.
Ayurveda teaches us that from 2-6am is Vata time, when we are at our most alert and creative. 6am is the ideal time to get up because after that we move into Kapha time, which is slower and grounding; perfect for winding down and going to bed but not so great for getting up. The old saying “early to bed, early to rise” really is worth paying attention to here; the hour or so before sunrise is the best possible time to get up. Consider getting yourself outside for some sunlight
and fresh air – yes, even in the rain!
Early morning sunlight has more light rays with shorter wavelengths; these help to reduce the levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) in our bodies, and to regulate our circadian rhythms.
To me, this latest study further cements my belief that Ayurveda has been right all along. It is an ancient wisdom that has been practiced for centuries. It was around long before there were electric lights, TVs or iPads to extend our waking hours and stimulate our brains. It is a very simple science whose wisdom is proven by Western scientific reports as the years go on.
I stumbled across this article the other day; apparently, prolonged lack of sleep and insomnia can cause the death of brain cells… The “apparent good” news is that scientists think they can probably create a drug to help protect brain cells. Rather than, I hasten to add, help people to sleep better in the first place…..oh well, I guess that is my job!
Is this really the route we’re going down now? Rather than try and work holistically to resolve sleep problems, we’re just going to say, “oh well, we’ll make a drug to fix it.”
I suppose for shift workers, the idea of a drug to protect their brains against the damage caused by that sort of pattern would be a good thing… but for the rest of us why don’t we all just work on getting better sleep instead?
Society in general seems to be heading in this worrying direction whereby we will happily pop a pill to solve a problem, rather than do something constructive to avoid the problem occurring in the first place. We all seem so keen to just find a quick fix, even if it will only solve the problem for there and then and not for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.
We’ve known for a long time that shift work and working nights was bad for people; the sun sets for a reason, and we are all better off when we aim to stick to natural rhythms of night and day. People who work nights long term confuse their natural circadian clock, potentially causing sleep disorders (surprise!), digestive problems, obesity and heart disease.
There are natural things you can do to help with sleep issues, though. Even if you’re a shift worker and have to be up all night and sleep all day, there are a lot of things you can do to try and restore that balance. Certain yoga postures before bed can help to relax you, and sun salutations when you get up can help to wake you up. If you’ve had a restless sleep, there are things you can do to try and recover, ready for your day. There are also simple things you can do before you go to bed, to try and ensure a restful night. Things like avoiding caffeine and sugar before bed, and switching off the TV (or laptop) a good few hours before bed really do make a difference.
I am a firm believer in exhausting all natural, holistic avenues before reaching for chemicals to resolve a problem. I know what it’s like to be sleep deprived and fed up, but I really believe that you can make simple changes to your lifestyle to resolve an issue.