Body clock/sleep pattern type: how does this affect your eating patterns
I was talking to someone on another forum the other week about breakfast. She was saying that she agrees with the idea that it should be the most substantial meal of the day, and it's not the first time that I've heard this. I also found articles claiming that people who eat bigger breakfasts tend not to compensate by eating less later in the day, so they just end up eating more overall. This tends to happen with me, so I'm being guided by my hunger patterns and making breakfast my smallest meal, though still a nourishing start to the day.
I was thinking about these two opposing points of view, and it suddenly occurred to me that they could be linked to your circadian rhythm (body clock) type. I'm an evening person with bells on. Before I started using light therapy and darkness therapy to regulate my body clock, I had fairly substantial Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder and could be falling asleep at 6 am or so with no way of moving my sleep patterns. This was probably caused by lack of daylight and lack of regular routines once I became disabled enough that I was mostly housebound. Now that I'm on successful treatment for the sleep disorders (look up "In search of mornings" if you're curious), I am proudly going to bed at around midnight, getting up at 8 or so, and having breakfast at 9ish. However, I'm still most alert in the evenings and I still don't want or need a huge breakfast. Of course, part of that is because I eat lunch 3-4 hours after I eat breakfast, whereas an early riser who breakfasts at 7 could be eating lunch 6 hours after their breakfast and will therefore need their breakfast to tide them over for longer.
So here's the question. Go and take the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (google that phrase), it only takes a few minutes. Report back with your morningness-eveningness number, and tell us when during the day you tend to feel hungrier (or just your usual mealtimes) and whether you've experimented with shifting when you eat your biggest/smallest meal. If you have sleep disorders, mention that too, and Seasonal Affective Disorder and ordinary depression are probably relevant too.
The scores for morningness-eveningness are as follows.
Without treatment - off the charts for evening, I think I scored about 14 but you can't really take the test properly with DSPS that severe. Hunger increased during day. Usually had breakfast, though occasionally skipped it, and it would be a pretty late breakfast, with other meals accordingly late. Never got into much of a routine due to shifting sleep times (I actually had Non-24 Sleep-Wake Disorder after a while too), either with eating or with sleeping.
With treatment (light and darkness therapies) - 46 which is intermediate, have managed to regulate eating times fairly well along with much better sleep patterns. Hunger and alertness still increase over the day, although I now get an alert patch in the morning as well. Breakfast typically 9ish, lunch about 12.30, supper about 7.30 (sometimes later, but these days I tend to be too hungry and lightheaded if I do that, plus eating late is a recipe for indigestion with me). Wake up 8-9am, bedtime 12am or so. Happiest with breakfast as the smallest meal and supper as the largest.
I'm particularly interested in hearing from people practising Intermittent Fasting, which I've only just learned about. It seems to me that it would be particularly appealing to evening types, the people who naturally find it hard to eat breakfast anyway.
Sleep issue - I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP to get to sleep at night.
I am compromised by SAD - according to the test results, my natural time to go to sleep is 12:15 pm.
I don't get hungry in the morning, so now, I don't eat breakfast. My natural hunger occurs after 1 pm.
When I used to do the six meals a day thing and made myself eat breakfast, I found I was ravenous all day and could not stop eating well into the evening. I had to do an elimination diet to figure out I was allergic to soy and discovered, to my surprise, when I don't eat, I feel quite energized. I have kids that need to get up and going in the mornings, so when I quit eating breakfast, I was alert and energized enough to get everything done in the mornings. The minute I started eating, especially some sort of refined carbohydrates, and definitely if something has soy in it, my energy levels dropped immensely.
Before I knew about the sleep apnea, I ate throughout the day to give myself energy to keep going. I gained a lot of weight during that time. Once the apnea was diagnosed and I started using a CPAP, my energy levels rose and my weight leveled off.
I tried to lose weight for many years but couldn't get control over my appetite until I started to listen to my body's natural rhythm. Only in the last couple months could I break a plateau I'd been on for nearly three years using intermittent fasting. My eating window is between 1 and 9 pm, and I also do a 24 hour fast once a week. And I've lost 20 lbs adhering to that. I was able to drop my calories from 2100+ to 1515.
I can still easily overeat, especially when I haven't gotten enough sleep. That seems to be crucial to controlling my appetite. I've not been sleeping well lately due to a family loss and I've been slipping on the caloric intake front as well as lack of exercise. Sometimes, this past week, I've needed an afternoon nap but didn't indulge and have paid for it with overeating.
I have tried to keep to some sort of regular sleep hygiene. It's really hard for me to do. I have to be up early, but it's hard for me to get to sleep early enough at night in order to get that 8 to 9 hours of sleep that my body really requires. I try to get up consistently, weekday and weekend, by 7. I wish I could get up by 6, but that would mean getting to bed by 10, and I just can't seem to do that.
According to the test, I'm at a 43 intermediate, and the time for my natural melatonin release is 10:30. My bedroom windows are situated beneath a very large tree and my room stays fairly dark until mid-morning. According to the website, I may need some morning light therapy as well as a dose of melatonin earlier in the evening.
I'm curious about what others will share on this topic.
I work at home on my own hours. Unless I have an appointment I need to keep during the day I will naturally go to bed around sun up 5 or 6 AM usually and sleep till 2 or 3 PM. I definitely have DSPS, but I have built a life where it'snot really an issue. I actually have reverse SAD as too much daylight makes me depressed so I am miserable all summer. NOTHING makes any difference with this. When I had a 9-5 I would get 3-4 hours of sleep a night then sleep all weekend to try & make up for it.
Otherwise I don't fit what you are looking for because . I HAVE to eat breakfast within 30 min.s or so of getting up or I get nauseas.
In college, over 20 years ago, I did Intermittent Fasting but I just can't imagine doing it now especially since I am trying to exercise more.
Oops, I should mention that you should take the melatonin and light therapy timing recommendations on that site with a pinch of salt, they can be a bit weird.
I'd expect there to be a lot of sleep apnoea on this forum, since there's a correlation with obesity, in an unpleasant vicious circle sort of way. It's not one of the sleep disorders I've had, though my aunt has it (overweight) and I have suspicions about my stepfather (healthy weight).
I'm not quite sure how to post a link-that's-not-really-a-link, since I'm still a newbie, but here's an attempt to show you the page I wrote on my sleep site about sleep hygiene: http :// insearchofmornings.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/sleep-hygiene/ If that doesn't show up, go to my In Search of Mornings site, go to "All posts", and click on the second article in the series. I've dug out some of the lesser-known stuff, not just the advice we all hear over and over. Personally I favour darkness therapy over melatonin supplements.
I've found that it's much easier to keep regular eating patterns once I stabilised my sleeping patterns. When my sleep was chaotic, my eating was even more so. I've had that sort of energy buzz when you're so involved with something that you go way past your mealtime without realising, but I pay for it with exhaustion later in the day. Of course, I have a complicated fatigue-based illness, I'm not typical. Now that I'm eating less, I really have to stick to regular mealtimes, I get tired and dizzy if I run late. Weirdly, I'd say that my energy levels overall have been higher.
You mentioned that you have to be up early but can't go to bed early enough to fit that, and also that when you skipped an afternoon nap you compensated by overeating. (I have hopefully now kicked a bad habit I'd got into of eating when exhausted in the vain hope that it would improve my energy levels. Nope, it just piled the weight on.) How do you get on with napping generally? I seem to go through phases of napping, and I have to be careful about judging when I need the extra sleep overall (ME/CFIDS can increase sleep requirements) and when it's likely to mess up my bedtime.
Last edited by Esofia : 05-22-2011 at 06:31 PM.
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