Sleep Matters

This morning threw me a little bit of a curve ball.  I woke up naturally (as I always do, without the use of an alarm clock). Then I used the bathroom and weighed myself at what felt like the usual time.  The thing that was different from this morning was that it was a holiday (Memorial Day) so no one was stirring. My body was telling me it was morning and time to get up, but the rest of the house was still snoring. According to the scale, I had gained 0.6 pounds, which would indicate that my delicious slow cooked roast beef was inflammatory. I was disappointed. And since no one else was awake, I just crawled back into bed and went back to sleep.

I don’t know what time that was, but I woke up again later, when River crawled out of his cage and vigorously shook his body.  The flapping of his ears woke me up. This time it was just after nine am, and I thought, just for fun, I’d weigh myself again. Lo and behold, I had lost those 0.6 pounds and I was exactly the same weight I had registered the previous morning.

This got me thinking about how precise I was being about what time of the morning I weighed.  I hadn’t thought about how much difference it could possibly make. I just figured, whenever I woke up, it was weigh in time. I don’t have a regular day job so I don’t have any time that I have to be up and out of bed. I tend to just get up when it feels right, or if River wakes up and indicates that he needs his walk. 

It really brings home the importance of sleep for weight loss. I had always known it was crucial to the process, but this is proof. It has always been one of the factors that I give a lot of attention to when working with clients on helping them lose weight. Until now it was based on my reading and schooling, so it’s very nice to actually have some real experience with the concept.

But then there’s the downside to this discovery. Seeing how I could adjust my results based on how late in the morning I sleep, makes me doubt ALL of my discoveries on this experiment.  Had I simply kept the measurement I took earlier this morning, I’d be satisfied putting roast beef in the ‘unfriendly column’ but if I only took the data from my second weigh-in, I’d consider roast beef friendly. As it is now, I don’t know where to put it.

Perhaps it is beneficial to sleep later on mornings after having an inflammatory meal?  Maybe that makes no difference in the end. Do I need to retest roast beef? Do I need to start the whole experiment over from Day One being more careful to weigh in at exactly the same time each morning?

Another factor that comes into play is that certain spices will have an inflammatory effect with certain body chemistry. For example, it is my understanding that paprika and fennel are two spices that are highly likely to cause inflammation in most people.  When preparing my roast beef, I used a spice rub that didn’t list either of those spices, but its main ingredient was coriander, which I had never used until now. And when eating the beef, I thought I could definitely taste fennel. So I’m not sure if any inflammation that I measured was due to the meat or the rub.

Fortunately, I made about three pounds of roast.  So there’s plenty of beef left for re-testing. Although I won’t be able to separate the roast from the spices at this point, I could easily use that same rub on some sauteed veggies on a safe day and measure what happens.

Today I’ll stick to a familiar, friendly diet and then tomorrow, assuming I’m back to losing weight, I’ll try another test.


Ron Sandahl said…
It seems like you would only need to re-test the negatives that you have gotten, since your positive results would not have become negative with more sleep, correct? I recall reading some years back that our bodies natural circadian rhythms also mean that, not only is the amount of sleep important, but when that sleep occurs. If you are someone whose body is happiest with sleep in a specific time range, by sleeping outside that time range the processes your body completes while asleep will change in their efficiency.
Just playing Devil's Advocate, but let's say I was inflamed by scallops. And I measured my weight at 10am. If that is enough time for the inflammation to have calmed down, it might register as a pass by the time I get around to measuring it.
On the other hand, if I weigh myself at 10am every day, except on one morning, when I get up at 7am, I could register a normal (ie not due to inflammation) weight fluctuation which could be misinterpreted as a reaction.
I tend to be of the belief that our bodies crave sleep when the sun goes down and crave being awake with the breaking dawn, but in our electrical society, we have been able to squelch those natural rhythms.
Anonymous said…
Hi Jason
Been following your blog and trying some of your expirments. So far my results have been quite similar.
Talked to a dietitian friend about weight loss and she said that our body processed most of our intake while we are asleep. According to her and it makes sense the more sleep the more weight loss and how you should weight your self at same time. She also said I should not weith myself every day. Not sure why.
HI Gary,

Yes, as you likely know from following my news letters, Sleep is one of my Eight Pillars of Health and one of the things I have all of my clients focus on, especially those wanting to lose weight.

It was a lapse in judgement on my part, when I didn't establish a weigh-in time every day.

Your dietician friend gives good advice. In general, I am opposed to weighing ourselves every day. In fact, before starting this experiment, I didn't even own a scale because I find them such poor indicators of health and very over-relied upon.

But she doesn't know what I'm doing. The experiments that I'm doing require daily weigh-ins. If your dietician knew what I was doing I'm sure she would know why I was weighing myself every day.

That said, if you are not doing these types of highly sophisticated experiments, I also recommend not weighing yourself. For general health and fitness, it isn't a good idea. I ask my clients to get their scales OUT of the bathroom and to break themselves of that habit.

Without the benefit of a control baseline and the calculated variable added in, there's no reason to weigh in.

And I think it's an oversimplification of the truth and a bit irresponsible for a professional dietitian to tell someone that "the more they sleep, the more weight they lose". If that were the case, then we could all just lose all the weight we needed by sleeping until we were thin. And obviously that won't work.

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