Tuesday 23 November 2010

You Can't Cheat the Sandman

Some more thoughts about Christmas time. First published in 2008.

Two weeks ago I went shopping and came across a great offer on Panetone cake, this simple yet delicious Italian Christmas sponge cake. Well, one could make one from scratch - not that I ever tried, although I found a recipe - but I bought mine. What a good idea for an afternoon tea with the ladies, so I thought... Well, it's gone! I ate it... all of it... the whole kilo in 3 days!

I'm embarrassed, but it was soooo good. Firstly this is my favourite type of cake, and it's only on the market around Christmas. Secondly it keeps very well .. . OK, apparently not in my house, but generally you can keep it for about half a year.  So this cake is a great bargain.

There was just one thing that puzzled me: It was not THAT time of the month, and I thought I had learned to control myself rather well. Hmm?! I was fairly tired at that time though, only sleeping 5-6 hours per night, Detlef mothering me already: You should sleep more, that's not good for you,... Yeah, well I know!! But..!!!

However I couldn't help but think that the more I got tired, the more I was chomping away on this cake, wondering if there might be a connection. I remembered previous occasions where I just insisted on burning the candle from both ends and actually should have lost weight from all the activities, but got fatter instead. Then Detlef told me about something he had heard on the radio 'See, told you so!' style. Good girl that I am, I researched it with his help and it was broadcast on 'BBC2 Radio – Chris Evans drivetime, 22/11/07'. Dr. Adam Carey gave an interview on the effects of lack of sleep and this is what I understand from it:

It is one of the things where the body chemistry comes into play. There seem to be two chemical effects taking place due to lack of sleep.

Firstly, not sleeping enough means that cortisol, the bodies stress hormone, is rising. The body goes into energy saving mode when under stress ('starving' or 'high impact cardio exercise' - and apparently 'lack of sleep'). It means that the body takes energy from easily accessible sources like blood sugar and muscle, rather then bothering to attack the fat depots. When awake it demands fresh energy in form of being greedy for carbohydrates, or in my case: Panetone! And being still tired this is hard to resist anyway. Hence weight gain rather than loss, despite the active lifestyle.

Secondly, the levels of growth hormones are falling. Those are build while sleeping and are needed for all the repair work the body has to do. If growth hormones are low, the effect of exercises is wasted. Training is supposed to impose some kind of micro-damage on the muscle so that the body feels the need to repair and thus strengthen. With low levels of this hormone, on muscles will not grow despite the exercise. To cut a long story short:

Lack of sleep means more greed for calorie rich food, destruction of muscle tissue, restricted re-build of new muscle tissue, which altogether is resulting in a physically weak body with growing fat depots.


Off you go ladies, have a nap, sleep your seven hours per night, see to get to bed before midnight - it's not just about beauty, it's about well being, fitness, lifestyle - everything! Start your time management by planning your sleep and then work backwards through the day. Be religious about it. It's for a good cause and your kids will learn from you. Hey - what a great excuse that is!

My new motto:
You can't cheat the Sandman!

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