Posts Tagged ‘sleep’

Sleep: The (Undeserved) Least Respected Piece of a Healthy Lifestyle

October 13, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  10/13/2018


Photo above: my two daughters in peaceful repose (quite a few years ago!)


Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
Jack Lalanne

In addition to Lalanne’s emphasis on exercise and healthy eating as the key pieces to a healthy lifestyle, modern science supports adequate quality and quantity of sleep as a third component of equal importance.  More than one- third of Americans suffer with chronic sleep deprivation and today’s entry explores the consequences and solutions to  this.

Nature has not intended mankind to work from 8 in the morning to midnight without the refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.

Winston Churchill

What’s Obvious

That adequate quantity and quality of sleep is vital to our well-being and optimal functioning is readily apparent. We have all enjoyed the blissful experience of a great night’s sleep, awakening well-rested, energetic, optimistic and ready to approach the new day with vigor. Conversely, we have all experienced a poor night’s sleep, awakening feeling physically exhausted, mentally spent, lids heavy, dark circles under our eyes, and often in a disassociated “zombie” state, totally unmotivated and unenthusiastic about facing the new day (a situation not unlike jet lag).

The amount of sleep one needs is biologically determined and different for each person. Some can make do with five hours of sleep while others require ten hours, but as a general rule, seven to eight hours is recommended.  Regardless, sleeping has an essential restorative function as our brains and bodies require this important down time for optimal functioning.

What’s not so obvious

Good quality sleep is an important component of overall health, wellness, and fitness with potential dire consequences to the chronically deprived. Sleep disruption or deprivation has numerous negative mental and physical effects including disturbed cognitive, endocrine, metabolic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and immune function. While sleeping, there is an increased rate of anabolism (cellular growth and synthesis) and a decreased rate of catabolism (cellular breakdown), processes that are disrupted by sleep deprivation. Chronic sleep issues can result in making one feel ill and appearing much older than they are chronologically.

Sleep disruption results in decreased levels of leptin (a chemical appetite suppressant), increased ghrelin levels (a chemical appetite stimulant), increased corticosteroids (stress hormones) and increased glucose levels (higher amounts of sugar in the bloodstream). As a result, chronic sleep deprivation commonly gives rise to increased appetite, increased caloric intake and the disassociated “zombie” state lends itself to dysfunctional eating patterns and consumption of unhealthy foods, and as such, weight gain is a predictable consequence.  Compounding the issue, a chronically-fatigued state impairs one’s ability to exercise properly, if at all.

Chronic sleep deficits results in irritability, impaired cognitive function and poor judgment.  The inability to be attentive and focused interferes with work and school performance and causes increased injuries (such as falls) and motor vehicle accidents.

Fact: Shift work sleep disorder.   Non-standard shift workers (health professionals, emergency workers, airline pilots, plant and manufacturing operators, etc.) make up nearly 20% of the U.S. work force. Their irregular working hours are often associated with disturbance of circadian rhythms and resultant insomnia and poor quality and quantity of sleep.  Scientific evidence shows an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, peptic ulcer disease and depression.

What to do

The good news is that sleep deprivation is a modifiable risk factor, with a variety of ways to facilitate a good night’s sleep.

Sensible measures to help ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • Lead an active lifestyle with abundant exercise and stimulation.
  • Whether you are an early riser or a night owl, try to be consistent with respect to wake-up and bedtimes on both weekdays and weekends; if these times vary greatly it is a setup for sleep problems by disturbing your internal body clock.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleeping environment—a good quality supportive bed, comfortable pillows, a dark room, cool temperature and, if you like, “white noise” (I find that the monotonous sound of the sea produced by a sound machine, coupled with the gentle whirring of an overhead fan, is an instant relaxer).
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages—coffee, tea, cola, etc.—particularly after 6:00 p.m.  On the other hand, herbal teas, e.g., chamomile, can be soothing and relaxing.
  • Avoid consuming a large meal at dinner or eating very late at night.
  • Avoid imbibing too much alcohol.
  • Avoid exercising late in the evening.
  • Minimize the stress in your life, as much as is conceivable. Engage in a de-stressing activity immediately before sleep—reading, watching a movie or television show, crossword puzzle, sudoku, sex—whatever helps relax you and bring upon sleepiness.
  • Try to minimize evening exposure to the bright light (“blue light”) of cell phones, tablets and computers that inhibits production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, levels of which under normal circumstances rise coincident with darkness. If possible, dim the light settings on electronic devices that are used at night.
  • Supplemental melatonin seems to help some people, but is ineffective for many others (including myself), but may be worth a try 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health


PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor



10 Ways To Maintain Sexual Fitness

December 31, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  12/31/16


(Thank you, Pixabay, for image above)

It is fundamental to understand that your genitals are not separate and independent entities, but part and parcel of your body as a whole. If your health is compromised by illness or poor lifestyle, you should not expect your penis or vagina to function any better than rest of your body, but in parallel with your general health. If you are overweight, “malnourished” on the basis of a poor diet, do not challenge your body with regular exercise, use tobacco, consume too much alcohol, are over-stressed, sleep deprived, etc., your sexual function will likely suffer in concordance with your general health. The bottom line is that general health drives genital health and that healthy sexual functioning is an excellent marker of general health.


Sex is a healthy and natural part of life.  A healthy sexual relationship is an important part of an overall healthy relationship, “cementing” the bond between those in the relationship.

Whether male or female, the concept of “sexual fitness” has recently come into vogue. The idea is that sexual health is related to overall health and that optimal functioning in the bedroom can only be achieved with an  healthy state of mind and body and that the root cause of declining sexual performance is  when general health is compromised.

Blood flow is our lifeline and defines our existence. The key to life is the unimpeded flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to every cell and tissue in the body to maintain proper function.  Cardiovascular health is thus imperative for general and sexual health and when blood flow is jeopardized, both general health and sexual function will suffer.

Cardiovascular fitness is based upon maintaining a healthy weight, consuming a nutrient-rich diet (lean proteins, abundant fruit, vegetables, legumes and avoidance of nutrient-poor processed foods, excessive sugar and refined foods, etc.), daily activity and exercise (including aerobic, resistance, core and pelvic floor), avoiding excessive stress, getting sufficient sleep and avoidance of toxins including tobacco and excessive alcohol. Negative behaviors pursued on a chronic basis can sap one’s health and vitality that is critical to sexuality.

Our human ability to perform physically—in any domain—declines as we age, explaining why most professional athletes are in their twenties or thirties. Sexual function is no exception, with sexual response generally declining gradually over time, most often predicated upon impaired blood flow and altered function of the cells and tissues that comprise the genitals.

One option is to wait for your sex life to go south and then be “reactive,” incorporating healthy lifestyle measures in an effort to reverse the damage. A better approach is to be “proactive” with attention to the following ten recommendations.

10 Ways To Maintain Sexual Fitness

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight  This will help prevent fatty deposits that clog up your blood vessels, including the arterial supply to the penis and vulva/vagina.
  1. Eat Healthy  The bottom line is that you want your body running on premium fuel. Nutritionally wholesome, natural foods will help prevent the build-up of harmful fatty deposits that compromise genital blood flow. Poor dietary choices with calorie-laden, nutritionally-empty selections (e.g., fast, processed, or refined foods) puts you on the fast tract to clogged arteries that can make your sexual function as small as your belly is big.
  1. Minimize Stress  Stress causes the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline narrows blood vessels, which has a negative effect on sexual response. Excessive cortisol secretion drives appetite and causes the accumulation of the bad belly fat (as opposed to fat under the skin).
  1. Eliminate Tobacco Tobacco contains nicotine and a cocktail of toxins that impairs blood flow and decreases the supply of oxygen, as well as promotes inflammation, compromising every organ in your body, including those vital for sexual function.
  1. Alcohol in Moderation  In small amounts, alcohol can alleviate anxiety and act as a vasodilator (increasing blood flow), but in large amounts it can be a major risk factor for sexual dysfunction. Everything in moderation!
  1. Sleep Tight  Sleeping has a critical restorative function. During this important downtime there is an increased rate of tissue growth and a decreased rate of tissue breakdown, vital for maintaining the integrity of our cells and tissues. Sleep deprivation causes a disruption in endocrine, metabolic, and immune function, resulting in increased appetite, increased cortisol, and higher amounts of sugar in the bloodstream. If you are exhausted, your genitals will be equally weary.
  1. Exercise   Exercise has a robust effect on sexual function through stress busting, mood improvement, fatigue reduction, increase of energy and better quality sleep. It reduces risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, chronic medical problems, and physical disability. It improves muscular strength and tone, reduces body fat and helps weight control. It makes your heart a better and stronger pump, your blood vessels more elastic, and your muscles better able to use oxygen. Exercises that work out the muscles involved in sex—the core muscles, the external rotators of the hip, and the all-important pelvic floor muscles—will improve bedroom performance. 
  1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises The pelvic floor muscles play a vital role with respect to all aspects of sexual function, from arousal to climax. Numerous scientific studies have documented the benefits of pelvic exercises (Kegels) in improving sexual function.
  1. Stay Sexually Active   Keep your genitals fit by using them on a regular basis for the purpose they were designed for. In other words, stay sexually active as nature intended! Sexual activity is vital for maintaining the ability to have ongoing satisfactory sexual intercourse. Regular sexual activity increases pelvic and genital blood flow and optimizes tissue health and elasticity, while orgasms tone and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles“Disuse atrophy” is a condition when the genitals adapt to not being used, with tissue wasting, genital shrinkage and weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. Use it or lose it!
  2. Maintain a Healthy Relationship.  It takes two to tango, so relationship harmony plays strongly into healthy sexual functioning just as discord and interpersonal issues profoundly contribute to sexual dysfunction.

Note that sexual intercourse in and of itself is a great form of general exercise because of the kinetics involved and the demands on the cardiovascular system, core, pelvic floor and other skeletal muscles. Of the “10 ways to maintain sexual fitness,” staying sexually active covers 6 of them (maintaining a healthy relationship, staying sexually active, pelvic floor exercises, general exercise, sleeping tight and minimizing stress).

Bottom Line: The “Golden Rule”: Treat your genitals kindly (in terms of a healthy lifestyle) and the favor will be returned; treat your genitals poorly and they will rebel. The proactive approach will keep you functioning smoothly for many years. General health and fitness will foster sexual health and fitness, and staying sexually active is a vital means of maintaining general health and fitness.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health


10 Tips to Keep Your Manhood Manly

August 8, 2015

Andrew Siegel, MD  August 8, 2015

shutterstock_orange gu tract

10 Tips to Keep Your Penis Healthy and Functional

The penis is truly a unique and remarkable organ—one of the only body parts capable of dramatically altering its shape, size, and constitution in nanoseconds. Imagine if our brains or biceps were that responsive, morphing into uber versions of themselves at the appropriate times—like Popeye’s biceps in response to spinach—we would be superheroes!

Trivia: The penis is not the only body part capable of such magic…there is one other organ that when stimulated will change its size fourfold, an even more impressive feat than what the penis is capable of!  Do you have any idea what this organ is?   (Answer at end of blog)

Penis Magic

Under the right circumstances, your penis becomes a proud warrior, a soldier standing tall at attention, saluting, noble, confident and majestic. With enough stimulation, it ferociously spits out DNA, capable of turning eggs into humans. Penis magic!

Your penis should command a great deal of respect–like any unpaired body organ that has no mate to kick in when there is engine failure–including the brain, heart, liver and pancreas. Yet the penis is not an organ that is treated with much respect.  It doesn’t see much light of day or fresh air. It is periodically liberated briefly from its incarceration to allow the bladder to drain or to be cleansed when showering. On occasion it is wrapped up in a suffocating rubber suit and inserted into dark and mysterious places. At other times it is “assaulted” by its owner–wacked, smacked and choked into submission.

Many naively assume that their penis will continue to perform its duties and responsibilities, day after day, year after year. Despite all your penis does for you, most are remiss in providing it sufficient nurture and care.  Without proper attention to its health and well being, it is destined to become less functional with each passing decade. Many chronic conditions are associated with its declining function, including obesity, the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tobacco use, etc.  What these conditions have in common is a “pro-inflammatory” state that results in dysfunction of the important cells that line blood vessels (endothelial cells), decreased levels of the vital chemical mediator of erections (nitric oxide) and oxidative stress with decreased levels of anti-oxidants and increased levels of free radicals.

The good news is that with some effort, you can maintain healthy functioning until your golden years. Like your car, your penis requires care and preventive maintenance to keep it running trouble-free.  Getting beyond maintenance, you can actually enhance your sexual health and performance, optimizing its function. The following are the top ten means of keeping your penis healthy:

1. Don’t carry extra pounds  

Just as your car suffers a decline in performance if it is dragging around too much of a load, so you penis will function sub-optimally if you are carrying excessive weight. Obesity steals your manhood and reduces male hormone levels. Abdominal fat converts the male hormone testosterone to the female hormone estrogen. Obese men are more likely to have fatty plaque deposits that clog blood vessels, including the arteries to the penis, making it more difficult to obtain and maintain good-quality erections. Additionally, as your belly gets bigger, your penis gets smaller.

2. Use high octane, performance fuel

Put a tiger in your tank with wholesome, natural and real foods that help prevent weight gain and the build-up of harmful plaque deposits within blood vessels. Healthy fuel includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fish.  Animal products including lean meats and dairy should be eaten in moderation, avoiding processed foods and refined grains. The Mediterranean-style diet is an excellent one for minimizing both sexual dysfunction and heart disease. Poor fuel choices include calorie-laden and nutritionally empty processed and fast foods, which often lead to clogged arteries and poor erections.

3. Minimize stress

Stress and anxiety cause the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Being nervous causes adrenaline-fueled performance anxiety on the basis of adrenaline constricting blood vessels, which negatively impacts erections. Excessive cortisol secretion drives one’s appetite, causing the accumulation of belly fat.

4. Eliminate toxins, particularly tobacco

You don’t want to put toxins in your tank. In addition to causing cancer, chemicals in tobacco narrow blood vessels, impair blood flow, decrease the supply of oxygen and promote inflammation, compromising every organ in your body, the penis being no exception.

5. Minimize toxins such as alcohol

In small amounts, alcohol can alleviate anxiety and act as a vasodilator (increasing blood flow) and can actually improve sexual function, but in large amounts it can be a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction.

6. Give it a rest

Too much time on the road without sufficient rest is not good for your body or your car. Both you and your vehicle require garage time. Ample sleep serves a vitally important restorative function. Sleep deprivation causes a disruption in endocrine, metabolic, and immune function, resulting in decreased levels of leptin (appetite suppressant), increased ghrelin levels (appetite stimulant), increased cortisol, and increased glucose levels (higher amounts of sugar in the bloodstream). If you are exhausted, your penis is going to be weary as well.

7. Hit the road regularly

Take that vehicle out for a nice ride on a regular basis. Use your body as it was meant to. Exercise has a remarkably positive effect on sexual function, in addition to reducing stress, improving mood, preventing fatigue, and increasing energy. It reduces risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, chronic medical problems, and physical disability. Exercise makes the heart a better and stronger pump, the blood vessels more elastic, and the muscles more efficient at extracting oxygen. Exercises that work out the muscles involved in sex—the core muscles, the external rotators of the hip, and the all-important pelvic floor muscles—will improve bedroom performance.

The pelvic floor muscles play a vital role with erections and ejaculation. When you are sexually stimulated, the pelvic floor muscles activate to maintain penile rigidity and a skyward angling erection. These muscles are not only responsible for getting the stimulated penis from a tumescent state (plump with blood) to a bone-like rigid state, but also for maintaining that rigid state and for being the “motor” of ejaculation.

8. Stay active

Use it or lose it. You can help keep your penis in good shape by using it regularly as nature intended it to be used. Studies have clearly demonstrated that men who are more active sexually tend to have fewer problems with erections as they age.

9. Maintain healthy relationships

It takes two to tango, so relationship harmony factors strongly into good sexual functioning just as discord and interpersonal issues can profoundly contribute to sexual issues. The mind-body connection is of immense importance to sexual function.

10.  Preventive maintenance

 You bring your vehicle in regularly for oil and filter changes, tire rotations, and other means of preventing trouble, so do the same for your body with regular visits to your doctor to perform whatever tests are necessary to preempt issues before they become problematic. If you are having problems with your favorite organ, it is time to consult your friendly urologist.

Bottom Line: The Golden Rule of the Penis: “Do unto your penis as you would have your penis do unto you.”…In other words, treat your penis kindly and it will return the favor; treat your penis poorly and it will rebel.  First-line therapy for erectile dysfunction is lifestyle changes and a proactive approach will keep you functioning smoothly for many years.  

Q. What organ in the body when stimulated will change its size fourfold?

 A. The pupil of the eye will dilate from 2 millimeters in diameter in bright light to 8 millimeters in dark, as governed by the iris.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: Available in e-book (Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo) and paperback:  In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Sexual, Urinary and Pelvic Health.

Co-founder of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program.  Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: or available on Amazon

Untangling Twisted Health Messages

October 12, 2012


I just finished reading a fascinating book published by Beacon Press entitled: The Cure For Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages About Health, Fitness, And Happiness.  It is authored by Timothy Caulfield, a health law and policy researcher who holds appointments at the Faculty of Law and School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, and challenges and invalidates many of the “myths” of health crazes. I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of this very worthwhile read that I found to be educational, engaging, entertaining  and confirmatory of many of my own thoughts and feelings.

The following words are verbatim from pages 185-188 of the book, essentially a summary of his concluding remarks:

The results of my research point to a disheartening conclusion, which is, basically, that nothing works. Despite the immense diet, fitness, and remedy industries, very little actually does what it promises to do. A scan of your genes will not tell you what will happen in your future; for most of us, it’s no more useful than the numbers we get from a scale or blood pressure cuff. It is nearly impossible to transform your body through exercise alone. You cannot get sexy abs instantly or even after weeks of intense work.  There is no such thing as toning, and virtually every fitness gimmick is just that: a gimmick. To lose weight you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. Sadly, we don’t need many calories. There is no shortcut to weight loss.  And even if you can take off the pounds, keeping them off is the real challenge.  The failure rate is so high that some experts I interviewed thought that sustained weight loss is… sigh… impossible.

 Finally, most of the remedies offered by alternative practitioners work no better than a placebo, and the pharmaceutical industry has such a tight grip on the production of the relevant science that is difficult to trust any available information about any drug, when it comes from an advertisement, your physician, or even a respected medical journal.

 In short, there are no magical answers. This should not come as a surprise, of course. If it were easy, we would all be healthy. If alternative therapies worked, we would have verifiable data demonstrating their efficacy.  If losing weight and getting fit could be attained by utilizing a metabolism-enhancing, colon–cleansing yoga move, we would all be slim, cut, and have pristine innards. Alas, this is not the world we live in.

 On the other hand, there’s another way to look at the results of this inquiry. This is the glass half full view. If you want to optimize your health, the steps are, in fact, surprisingly simple. The steps are not easy – real effort is required – but they are straightforward. It isn’t complicated.

 This is a liberating realization. It means you can shut out most of the noise. Ignore the advertisements. Ignore the miracle–cure promises made by alternative practitioners. Ignore any marketing message that includes the word detoxify, cleanse, metabolism, enhance, boost, energized, vitalize, or revitalize.  Ignore the twist! Don’t get fooled by the sexy abs images that are such a huge part of Western culture. Don’t worry about the genetic predispositions that have been handed to you in the biological lottery of life. Unless you have one of the rare single gene disorders, like cystic fibrosis, or one of the relatively uncommon highly predictive mutations, genetic information is simply not that valuable.  Don’t get suckered into buying useless potions and practices that are wrapped inside an ideologically fuzzy and truth–obscuring blanket. It will only empty your wallet. And don’t get too excited when the media reports some big health breakthrough, especially if the story is based on a single study. True breakthroughs are rare.  Think of science as a slow and iterative process. As geneticist Jim Evans told us, science is a slog. Two steps forward, one and a half steps back. 

 What, then, are the straightforward steps to maximum health?  First, exercise often and with intensity (intervals work best) and include some resistance training. Second, eat small portion sizes, no junk food, and make sure 50% of what goes in your mouth are real fruits and vegetables.  Third, try your best to maintain a healthy weight – yes this is insanely tough, but we should at least try. Fourth, do not smoke, and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol. And fifth, take all the well-known and simple injury-prevention measures, such as wearing a seatbelt in the car and a bicycle helmet when you go riding.

Once you cut through the twisted messages that saturate our world, you find out all the available evidence tells us that these five steps are by far the most important elements of a healthy lifestyle. One expert I corresponded with for the diet chapter, Walter Willett from Harvard, figures that healthy food choices, physical activity, and not smoking could prevent over 80% of coronary artery disease, 70% of stroke, and 90% of type II diabetes.

 There are other measures, such as getting a good night’s sleep, that are important, and future research might compel me to add them to the list. And we should be conscious about eating certain other foods in addition to fruits and vegetables, like fish, berries, and whole grains.  Also, there are things that should probably be avoided, such as sodium and trans fats. But, in the big picture, these five actions remain essential. All the other stuff
– such as the alleged importance of various supplements and the craze for organic foods – will likely have only a marginal impact on individual health.  If you’re not doing all the big five, worrying about the details – such as a slightly increased genetic predisposition to some common disease or the cleanliness of your colon– is ridiculous.

There are no magical cures or programs. But the simplicity of the untwisted truth has an almost magical quality.


 Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food:

Available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition

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Sleep To Slim

July 20, 2012

Andrew Siegel, M.D.      Blog # 67


On many levels, sleep has a vitally important role. Our brains and bodies require this critically essential down time to “recharge.” Our sleep cycle includes restorative deep sleep phases and rapid-eye-movement sleep phases.  Our bodies need sufficient time to complete all phases of sleep to maintain our well being and to promote tissue repair, memory reinforcement and the release of hormones that function in regulating growth and appetite.

Who does not relish the blissful experience of a great night’s sleep, in which we awaken feeling alert, rested, energetic, optimistic and ready to tackle life with vigor? Throw in some great dreams and we have the recipe for the beginning of a wonderful day. Conversely, we have all experienced a very poor night’s sleep, in which we awaken feeling physically exhausted, mentally spent, lids heavy, dark circles under our eyes and in a disassociated state, totally unprepared and unenthusiastic about facing the new day.

Many of us do not realize the profound association between sleeping and eating.  The bottom line is that an adequate amount of quality sleep helps keep us on the healthy eating wagon, while insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation can throw us off it.  Fatigue eating is a very real phenomenon and is one of the circumstances that drive my own bouts of mindless, unnecessary eating.  Many of us, when physically and mentally exhausted, in a “zombie”-type state, often seek refuge in the refrigerator or pantry in spite of not being genuinely hungry. It seems that this FATigue—an altered state of mind and body—would best be served by seeking refuge napping in our beds, but mindless food foraging all too often serves as a surrogate activity.

In addition to the dis-inhibition of “eating discipline” that occurs with fatigue (similar to that which occurs with alcohol), there appears to be a physiological basis for this fatigue-driven eating. Fatigue or sleep deprivation causes the following:

  • decreased levels of leptin, our appetite suppressant
  • increased levels of ghrelin, our appetite stimulant
  • increased levels of cortisol, one of the stress hormones
  • increased  glucose (blood sugar)levels

Thus, fatigue results in internal chemical changes that can drive our eating.

Acute sleep disruption is associated with increased appetite and caloric intake and chronic sleep deficits result in an inability to be attentive and focused, interfering with our mindfulness, which can wreak further havoc with our eating.  The disassociated “zombie” state lends itself to dysfunctional eating patterns and, as such, weight gain is a predictable consequence. Additionally, a chronically fatigued state will also affect our ability to exercise properly, if at all.

The following are pointers to help achieve a good night’s sleep:

  • A quality mattress and box spring, topped by a cushioned mattress pad, are wonderful investments since we spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping; amortized over many years, they really prove quite a bargain.
  • Same goes for pillows—some like them firm, some fluffy, so you must find what works best for you.
  • Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule in terms of time going to sleep and time arising, making an effort not to disrupt the pattern too much on weekends.
  • Caffeine restriction after a certain hour, depending on the individual—this means coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate (which contains a caffeine-like chemical).
  • Limit daytime naps.
  • Don’t overdo it with alcohol during dinner and the evening hours; even though alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant (which one might think would aid in sleep), in reality, it interferes with our natural sleep rhythms.
  • Easy on late-night eating—going to bed bloated with churning intestines is counter-productive in the effort of getting quality sleep.
  • Don’t overdo it with fluid consumption in the evening that can cause sleep-disruptive nocturnal urinating.
  • Exercise early since evening exercise tends to stimulate our brains and bodies and cause insomnia.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature—generally, a cool room promotes quality sleep.
  • Keep the room as dark as possible—black out shades are terrific.
  • Try to keep the ambient noise to a minimum so the sleeping environment is quiet.
  • For some, white noise can be very helpful—I go to sleep to the sound of machine-generated surf; not quite as good as when I lived in Manhattan Beach, California right on the ocean, but helpful nonetheless.
  • Have a pre-sleep relaxation and tension-reducing ritual such as reading, a hot bath, meditation, romance, etc.

Take home points:

— The fatigue resulting from insufficient sleep interferes with our mindfulness and can result in unnecessary eating as a surrogate activity for sleeping.

— There is a biochemical basis for this sleep-deprivation eating.

— When we find ourselves succumbing to fatigue eating, it is best to try to muster up the wherewithal to head to the bedroom instead of the refrigerator—we will feel much better about ourselves in the morning and will have saved ourselves needless calories!

— On a general basis, it is best not to use eating as a substitute for other activities.

—  Try to consistently get enough sleep in order to avoid FATigue and its many pitfalls!

Andrew L. Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Available on Amazon Kindle