The Big Picture: Sleep and Hormones

Tyler Lafleur

Functional Medicine - Sleep

Let’s be real for a moment: Most people are not excited to talk about improving their sleep or hormonal balance.

Sleep routines are not as sexy as intense workouts.

It isn’t as fashionable as the latest packaged, organic snack at Whole Foods. And it surely isn’t as fun as flushing half of your paycheck down the toilet on heavily marketed supplements.

How to achieve your ideal body and vibrant health 
And not worry about sleep
(Just kidding: you can't)

People would simply rather talk about their recipes, count calories, or post pictures on Facebook about their latest yoga pose or their 10,000 step habit.

But nobody wants to discuss the elephant in the room: Our stressful lifestyles are demolishing our recovery potential.

Americans are suffering from way more recovery debt than they are financial debt.

Why? - Because people wear their 15 hour work days and 80 hr work weeks like a badge of honor.

All the cool kids are working more than they should, sleeping less than they need, and drinking pumpkin spiced lattes!

If you wanna be cool, ya gotta do it too!

Even if it is at the expense of sacrificing your entire immune system and packing on 15 extra pounds this year.

Not to mention crippling anxiety that if kept up will surely leave you feeling clinically insane.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Why the hell is sleep so important?

To sleep well is to have a healthy mind and thus a healthy, lean body? - Yes!

Most fat accumulation has more to do with hormones than excess calories.

Functional Medicine - Sleep qualitySleep still crappy?

I have written about this before, but if you are certain that your issue is not due to excess caloric consumption, then you probably have a hormone issue to deal with.

While this is a much deeper topic, in and of itself, note that the surest way to sky rocket your stress hormones is to have a crappy outlook on the following day and to get less sleep than required for your own individual recovery from the previous day.

But which hormones and how?

Good question! - Let's dive in into the Functional Medicine world!

Hormone 101
Leptin and Ghrelin

Leptin is regarded as the 'master hormone' when it comes to appetite and body fat levels. Increased levels of Leptin suppress appetite.

Meanwhile Ghrelin has the opposite effect -
Increased levels of Ghrelin increase your appetite.

Functional Medicine - Leptin and Ghrelin

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So how does lack of sleep affect these two?

I’ll let the scientists take this one:

"In the 2004 paper titled Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index, researchers found that when are sleep deprived, our bodies produce more ghrelin and a decrease in leptin (9).”

Allow me to interpret for you:

Lack of sleep makes you eat more and feel less full from your meals.

In the health space, we refer to this highly scientific anomaly as: "Exactly Wrong”.

If your brain was your owner, this would be the equivalent of you peeing on the carpet and them spraying you with water in the face: “No! Bad Human!”

Insulin

Sweet, sweet Insulin

The Shirley Temple of the hormone family as it pertains to fat loss.

One of Insulin’s primary roles is
to determine where and how fast glucose gets processed from the blood stream.

Being sensitive to insulin is a good thing. You want a little to go a long way.

Too much of it floating around, and your lipid markers and body fat levels usually take a beating.

Functional Medicine - Insulin

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Now, go ahead and guess what happens to your insulin sensitivity when you forego sleep for one more (ehhh fifteen more) episodes of Game of Thrones at night?

... (* queue Jeopardy thinking music *)

Who needs more time to answer?

If you guessed “kicks your insulin sensitivity in the teeth”, you would be correct.

If you are chronically sleep deprived, you are literally asking for Diabetes and a fatter belly.

Coupled with your new Leptin and Ghrelin dysregulation, you may wonder why you keep swallowing the other half of your baby’s snacks and cookies when your intention was to only break them into smaller bite size chunks for them.

The perfect storm!

You are more hungry than usual and your body cannot clear the sugars you are eating as insulin has been de-sensitised.

If you were looking to create the perfect hormonal state for extra plumpness, this would be it.

And sadly, you aren’t alone.

Millions of people are currently partaking in this subconscious sabotage by simply skimping on the required amount of sleep.

Cortisol

We discussed the sweet and innocent Insulin.

Now we can move on to the red-headed step child of the hormone realm: Cortisol.

Cortisol's roles include helping to control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. 

Honestly, is it a bad hormone? - No.

Do most people have a bad relationship with it because they choose to be victimized by it’s role in survival? - Yes, of course.

Allow this graph to explain what your sleep hormone cycle (Cortisol and Melatonin) should look like:

Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.

Functional Medicine - Cortisol and Melatonin

Now, let’s look at a graphical representation of what most of you sleep-deprived folk’s look like: 

Functional Medicine - SleepSleep still crappy?

I know. I know. Health and the truth can be scary sometimes.

But, the show must go on.

Most people either get to bed too late, shine too bright of light into their eyes too late at night, or simply sit up thinking about how bad their day was or how crappy tomorrow will be, thus skewing these hormonal rhythms.

And when choosing to fight your natural hormonal rhythms you should treat your approach similar to talking back to your mother:

“Don’t”

In Other Words...

Before you look for a special food, supplement, drug, or hormone replacement therapy to lose body fat and increase energy, make sure you are not engaging in poor sleep habits or a poor sleep routine.

Sleep turns the dreams about your health into a reality - Aubrey Marcus

You should first take the time to ensure that you are not only maximizing your sleep efforts, but you should be monitoring your own sleep and the efficacy of it.

Remember, “Test! Don’t Guess!”

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