So hello again, everyone. After a jolly four months writing my Insomnia Diaries for the Telegraph, I am back here again. I will still be writing about sleep, mental and physical health for the paper (plus other rags, mags and websites) but as far as a blog goes, I am once again a private citizen.
When I started writing the Diaries, I signed up for a Google Alert on sleep (there is a LOT on this subject online, from the New York Times, then diluted down in publications called things like the Rockdale Newton Globe.) Skipping quickly through the Alert became part of my day.
Today, between deadlines, I went to have another look. The top article was from Harvard Health Publishing (courtesy of Harvard Medical School). The headline was: Weekend Catch Up Sleep Won’t Fix the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Waistline.
A thing to note about sleep news stories: they are rarely good news. You are variously told your insomnia f*ck up your relationship, make you rubbish at your job and increase your risk of car accidents. What upsets me about these stories is their almost accusatory tone: as if you are defiantly choosing not to sleep.
Anyway, the best articles are those that cheerfully tell you insufficient sleep will give you high blood pressure, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. The worst thing I have read (in the Harvard Medical Review, thanks again, Boston) is that ONE NIGHT without sleep significantly raises your risk of dementia.
Now, I know all about the weight gain thing. My column research led me to an analysis of 36 studies, discussed in the journal Obesity. (Can you imagine working on the journal Obesity? Might stall conversations at parties.) According to its tubby researchers, insomnia disrupts the hormones that control hunger, causing sufferers to eat hundreds of extra calories a day, particularly refined carbohydrates. The daytime exhaustion means you can’t be bothered to exercise and so the weight gain spirals – as does a cascade into other health conditions.
For the first six years of my recent insomnia saga, I would say I actually LOST weight (via muscle tone and even bone density – though I never had either of these checked). Then, three years ago the numbers on the scales started to go up. Exhausted and miserable, I threw away all my healthy eating principles. I couldn’t be bothered to exercise, then when I was prescribed a certain antidepressant – guess the side effect – all bets were off. (I’m off it now).
I’m losing the weight now, COUGH COUGH since Christmas. The first bit was easy, but it’s not fun. I am not a natural ‘diety’ person. I like carbohydrates. I like Kettle Chips. Slimline tonic water is the Mixer of the Devil. I like food and drink! The exercise is great (fast walking and boxing!) but it just makes me hungry.
Maybe as well as the Bridget Jonesy sleep numbers at the top, I will do food and alcohol unit ones. Or perhaps not.
Other than telling me to sleep more (I really am trying!) does anyone have any weight-loss tips that involve full-fat tonic and Pringles?
See you next time xx