100 lb. Club - Can I lose weight if I don't sleep?

02-05-2010, 07:35 PM
So, I finally conceded that with my new outrageously crazy schedule, I cannot do the same things that I did when I successfully lost weight before. So, I have developed a new strategy that I think will work.

But - the major hang-up is that I remember how crucial adequate sleep was the last time I lost a significant amount of weight. That, quite simply, will not happen. I am a full time first-year law student who commutes an hour to school, works a part-time job and has five children and a husband who deserve attention. Something has to give, and for now, it's sleep.

But it doesn't make sense to me that if I operate on a long-term calorie deficit (which I can definitely do) that I wouldn't lose weight.



Arctic Mama
02-05-2010, 07:42 PM
Um... You HAVE to get sleep.

Not just for weight loss, but general health. A serious sleep deficit will kill you as surely as any chronic health issue. The cortisol in your system will harm your heart, impact the functioning of your glands, liver, kidneys... Not to mention it will severely hamper your cognitive abilities. It's been proven that sleep deprivation can hamper your reasoning and reaction time as badly as being severely drunk.

Some people need less sleep than others, but you should NOT be getting less than five hours a night for any duration of time longer than a few days.

It is NOT something to mess around with. Please consider making adjustments to your schedule and your family's schedule that allow you a minimum six hour of sleep per night, or weight loss will likely be the least of your problems. Sleep deprivation hampers weight loss severely, but the effects of your body's metabolic processes and systems is a lot more profound than a few extra pounds.

(I say this as someone who struggles with sleep issues and an overloaded schedule as well. It is a serious problem and dangerous :()

02-05-2010, 07:49 PM
What if you plan your sleep like you plan your eating or plan for school? Maybe you could plan for 6-7 hours a sleep most nights of the week then stayed up one night to spend quality time with the fam? 5 kids? Yowza! What if you had date night with your husband 1 night a month then a special kid date night with each child one night a month? 1-2 hours of uninterrupted mom time would be pretty special without costing you a ton of sleep. Of course you'd have the day to day interaction too with your kids.

You will be of no use to anyone and will not be very successful in school, being a mom or being a wife if you wreck your health.

I know I have a horrible problem with binging if I haven't gotten a good nights sleep the night before. I've definitely ID'd that as a trigger for me. It is like my body craves sweet to give me the sugar high to counteract the exhaustion. It is hard to resist when you are exhausted.

02-05-2010, 07:54 PM
Everything Arctic Mama said! Plus, as a law school graduate myself let me just say it is critically important to get sleep (especially during that all important first year). I found the first year to be a tad insane and I lived alone and only had a 10-minute commute, I can't imagine having 5 children & such a long drive! If you want to do well (not just in terms of weight loss, but also school) then you have to find the time to get regular sleep so your brain/body can rest, otherwise you'll run yourself into the ground and that won't be good for you or your family. :)

02-05-2010, 08:07 PM
Chronic sleep deprivation (more than a couple weeks) can cause a lot of nasty things. Difficulty losing weight may be the least of them.

I burned the candle at both ends for several years working a full-time plus job while going to graduate school, then always working at least a job and a half (and single so not having to take care of anyone but me).

Sleep deprivation for me, resulted in fibromyalgia and autoimmune disease. My neurologist explained that the symptoms of short-term sleep deprivation in humans are very much like fibromyalgia. Pain, fatigue, memory loss. Long-term studies aren't done, because it would be too unethical. Lab rats deprived of sleep long-term, die of immune disfunction - succumbing to infection their bodies would have otherwise fought off, or to autoimmune disease.

Adequate sleep is crucial not only to weight loss, but to good health, overall.

As to weight loss, you already know how your body reacts to sleep deprivation where weight is concerned. You said:

I remember how crucial adequate sleep was the last time I lost a significant amount of weight.

If it was crucial then, it probably will be crucial now. Yes, you can keep reducing your calorie level until you DO lose weight, but at what cost?

Lack of sleep makes learning more difficult. Calorie reduction does the same. So does stress. Stress also makes weight loss more difficult. Lack of sleep and stress and calorie restriction all reduce the body's ability to fight off disease. Even for people with a lot of weight to lose, dieting (restricting calories) has a negative impact on immunity, reducing resistance to infection (making it easier to catch cold, for example).

How and to what degree sleep deprivation affects you is going to be highly variable. There's no way to tell how much sleep deprivation your body and mind can handle, and for how long, but even medical schools are rethinking their policy of forcing medical students to work so long and hard in a status of sleep deprivation. The preceived benefits seem to be increasingly outweighed by the risks.

Knowing what I know now, I would have valued sleep more, and would have given it a much higher priority in my life. I still would have made some of the same sleep-depleting choices, but I'd have been much more selective about them.

02-05-2010, 08:35 PM
Yikes! That sounds like a lot to deal with for one person. Is your husband going to be helping out? I know you said your kids and hubby need attention- but sometimes there are times in your life where the family has to bear the brunt while you do something that is going to benefit them all in the long run.

If there are any commitments you can let go of I would, and I'd also sleep any chance you get! I have sleep apnea and being deprived of sleep is the worst! :( Not being able to sleep definitely will hinder your weight loss.

Hopefully you can do things to where you don't go to school daily and can sleep in a few times a week to catch up on any sleep debt.

Good luck!

02-05-2010, 09:07 PM
Thanks for all of the great thoughts and concern. I guess I wasn't completely clear. Sleep is definitely a priority (but only one of many), and I do sleep about six hours most nights, which seems to be adequate for keeping my mind clear and being able to function. In fact, I just got my class ranking yesterday after the first semester, and I am in the top 6% of my class. It's tough, though, trying to think of anything else I can cut out to gain on the sleep. My husband is very supportive, and my kids are fairly independent. But if I tried to ask them to pick up more, I would feel completely irresponsible. I try to be as efficient as possible, using my drive time by listening to commercial CDs for my class subjects, downloading my class lectures to my MP3 player and listening to them when I exercise or do dishes, etc. But the first year is crazy crazy (I think that's the technical term, Gracie), and maybe until May 13, I'll just have to hold on and hope for the best.

Arctic Mama
02-05-2010, 09:23 PM

Okay then, with six hours a night *provided that your body isn't screaming at your for more sleep* you are probably doing all right. I know for people like me, that works well enough, but for my husband he can't handle that little sleep without becoming ill.

If you aren't constantly feeling exhausted then it probably is enough sleep that your weight loss shouldn't be significantly hampered. Obviously the more hours you spend awake the more time you give yourself to become hungry and eat (we can't eat if we're asleep :D) but generally if you aren't getting that awful fatigue cycle going, your weight shouldn't be terribly impacted.

So more is better, but you're probably okay :)

02-05-2010, 10:12 PM
Just noticed you are pregnant! Congratulations! Now that first trimester of pregnancy - that's all about sleep. No wonder you were so concerned. :-)

Arctic Mama
02-05-2010, 11:10 PM
I couldn't avoid sleep if I *tried* right now, that fatigue is like a wall I can't get around :lol:

02-06-2010, 01:20 AM
Maybe think of it as preparing them for when they get older? Seriously my mom TOTALLY babied me growing up and when I moved out and went to college BOY did I get a reality check! I had to teach myself how to cook and keep my bathroom clean and pick up after myself (I had a roommate who was very anal) and so on. I sometimes wish my mother had me do more so I didn't have to struggle with that when I first moved out.

02-06-2010, 02:02 AM
I don't think you want to teach your children that Moms are supposed to sacrifices their health and well-being before anyone else is asked to do a few extra chores.

It's not irresponsible to show children that families sacrifice and pull together when they're needed. If someone in the family is unable to do their normal chores for a time (whether short or extended), the rest of the family chips in and helps, especially (but not only) when the person unable to do the chores is doing something that will eventually benefit the entire family.

Would you really want a child to grow up to be a person who would say to their spouse, "Geez, it's really great that you want to go back to school, and it'll benefit the family, including me in the long-run but it's really not fair for you to expect me to help out more than I usually do. My mom went to law school and she didn't make any of us do any of her chores"?

In our family, there were many opportunities for my brother and sisters and I to learn to temporarily do more than our "fair" share. What was "fair" had to be seen in the big picture? When we were young, we had to be told to switch chores, and we didn't like it. My brother griped that it wasn't fair that he had to do my chores when I was in the school play. I griped when I had to do his chores when he was at basketball camp. My brother and I were 12 and 14 and then 14 and 16 when our two younger sisters were born, so we were out of the house by the time they had chores - but they learned the same lessons. The distribution of chores didn't always seem fair, but even that was a great lesson. Sometimes you help out, even when there's no guarantee you'll be repaid.

Eventually, we learned to negotiate chore trades on our own, and even to sometimes chip in when there was no promise of a trade, just for the good feeling of helping someone who was gracious about it. Which we also learned, initally by prodding (making me thank my brother every night he did my chores during the play practices).

There are also things that we learned about prioritizing as well as sharing tasks. My mother's standards of house cleaning were above average, but during times when everyone had a lot of work to do, housecleaning dropped in priority. Bathrooms and the kitchen always had to be clean. Rooms that had doors that could be closed when visitors arrived (such as bedrooms) not-so-much.

02-06-2010, 03:59 AM
I suffered from insomnia for years and years. Years which coincided with the peak of my morbid obesity. I am still not the world's greatest sleeper, but fixing my sleep schedule was one of the very first things I did in this whole lifestyle change, and I am absolutely CONVINCED it's had a huge impact on my ability to lose so much weight.

OK, that's me, and I am not you, and I have different sources of stress and different responsibilities, but truly, I implore you, get as much sleep as you can.

02-06-2010, 03:22 PM
catherinef's experience is similar to mine. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and was prescribed a cpap machine. The pulmonologist prescribing it told me that I'd probably lose some weight just as a side effect of getting more restorative sleep.

Lose weight without trying? "When pigs fly!" I thought. He was right though. Within a few months I had lost 20 lbs without dieting. I wasn't consciously trying to eat better, and I don't think my eating habits changed all that much. Those effortless 20 lbs inspired me to find a way to lose more weight.