Lack of Sleep Linked to Obesity!

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Joan Lunden

Sleep /

Being a mother of seven, working a full time job, and being an avid reader, sometimes late into the night - I sometimes find myself hitting the pillow as late as 2:00 AM!  (Which was not so far off from the time my alarm clock woke me up during my GMA days).  Shhhhhh!  During the week, our household wakes up around 6:30 AM to get ready for school and work. What does that equal?  That equals NOT ENOUGH SLEEP!  Professionals recommend 8 hours of sleep per night and many Americans are falling short. 

Sleep is so important and being that I don't always get the recommended 8 hours, I find myself searching the web and reading articles on how important sleep is for your health and how to get more of it.  Well if this fact doesn't get me into my jammies earlier, I don't know what will... lack of sleep can be directly related to obesity! 

Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic over the past few decades, and researchers believe that the growing obesity and sleep deprivation epidemics may be related. A recent study followed a group of 40- to 60-year-old women for five to seven years and tracked their weight and sleeping patterns. The researchers found that women who reported having trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently at night, or having trouble staying asleep were significantly more likely to have "major weight gain" (gain of 11 pounds or more) According to the Food Research Active Center (FRAC),  68.8% of adults in the U.S are overweight or obese; 35.7% are obese. Thats a scary statistic. Now, I'm not saying that all 68.8% of adults are overweight because they lack sleep but it does play a role in healthy living.

Think about it; If we are feeling sleepy at work we usually make a trip to the kitchen for a sugary snack or a cup of coffee too boost our energy level. On our way home some of us may be to tired to cook for our families so we make a quick stop and grab some fast food. Too tired to hit the gym, we find ourselves in bed without any exercise and a Big Mac laying in our bellies. It's a vicious cycle that can happen daily and have a growing affect on your waist line.

Losing sleep can have a long time affect on our bodies. What we consume is crucial to our health. I had the privilege of having my friends/experts from The Bedtime Network come to Camp Reveille and speak to the women about the importance of sleep and how it can impact what we eat. They introduced me to an article by Gayle Reichler called The 7 Best Foods for Sleep and they are:


A recent study of folks with chronic insomnia found that those who downed 8 ounces of juice made from tart Montmorency cherries (available in most grocery stores) one to two hours before bedtime stayed asleep longer than those who drank a placebo juice.

These sour powerhouses—which you can eat fresh, dried or juiced—possess anti-inflammatory properties that may stimulate the production of cytokines, a type of immune-system molecule that helps regulate sleep. Tart cherries are also high in melatonin, a hormone that signals the body to go to sleep and stay that way.


Many people like a glass of milk before bedtime, especially with a few cookies. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to the brain chemical serotonin. 

It is believed that tryptophan and serotonin might make it easier to sleep.

Jasmine Rice

Jasmine rice ranks high on the glycemic index, meaning the body digests it slowly, releasing glucose into the bloodstream gradually. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming jasmine rice four hours before bedtime cut the amount of time it took to fall asleep in half when compared with eating a high-glycemic-index meal at the same time interval. 


Bananas help promote sleep because they contain the natural muscle-relaxants magnesium and potassium. They’re also carbs which will help make you sleepy as well. 


Like milk, turkey contains tryptophan, a chemical that can make people relax and even doze off in front of the TV after Thanksgiving dinner. But if you’re a die-hard insomniac, a meal’s worth of turkey (or a glass of milk) isn’t likely to help you. 

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are a sleeper’s dream. Not only do they provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates, they also contain that muscle-relaxant potassium. 

Other good sources of potassium include regular potatoes (baked and keep the skin on), lima beans, and papaya. 

Valerian Tea

The root of the valerian plant has been shown in some studies to speed the onset of sleep and improve sleep quality. 

Some people hold that valerian tea along with motherwort, chamomile, and catnip brews, none of which contain caffeine, will help make you drowsy. It may not be any property of the actual tea however, but the power of the relaxing ritual as you get ready for bed say some researchers.

Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. According to, here are some relaxation techniques that will help you relax so you can fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer. They just might help you increase sleep, instead of the pounds...

Deep breathing

Close your eyes, and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Starting with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.

Visualizing a peaceful, restful place

Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.

After all this preparation for sleep don't forget the importance of sleeping on the right mattress with the right pillows. After waking up with a sore shoulder day after day I was at a loss to what the cause was until I went to my doctor and found out my mattress was the source of my pain! He told me I should be sleeping on memory foam to relieve the pressure points of my body.  I took his advice and ended up getting the best sleep ever and waking up pain free and refreshed. I now have my own line of sleep solutions called Awaken and have been spreading the message to everyone I know about the benefits of memory foam.

Categories: Sleep
About The Author
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Joan Lunden truly exemplifies today’s modern working woman. An award-winning journalist, bestselling author, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, one of America’s most recognized and trusted television personalities, this mom of seven continues to do it all. As host of Good Morning America for nearly two decades, Lunden brought insight to top issues for millions of Americans each day. The longest running host ever on early morning television, Lunden reported from 26 countries, covered 4 presidents and 5 Olympics and kept Americans up to date on how to care for their homes, their families and themselves.

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