Monday, 21 June 2010

The sleep before midnight.....

From early morning to lunchtime and into the evening, on Facebook and blogs and Twitter, I am one of many many friends and contacts that are tired and need more sleep.

It is probably the common cry, the golden thread, that links all my real life and blog and internet friends.

I have lost count of the times I have sent someone virtual hugs and prayed that individuals get some sleep, for fear of them descending into total meltdown.

Hell, I have posted it about it a fair handful of times too......

And of course I know that this craving for more sleep, and lack of it, goes with the territory of small children and too much social networking temptation.

The old proverb of "One hours sleep before midnight's worth two hours after" there any truth in it, do you think?

And equally, does sleep help you lose weight? Or if you don't get enough sleep, does this prevent you from losing weight?

(You can see now, how and why, my curiosity in this sleep business is piqued!)

It seems that there may be a bit of truth in the old proverb, and that is it more than just an old wives tale:

The liver is crucial to the body's energy cycle.  The liver follows the cycle of the sun. When the sun goes down in the evening, the liver wants you to rest, as the liver needs its own rest, in order to to store up sugars (glycogen) to be used for energy for the next days activities.

With me so far?

When we stay up late at night, we stuff around with our liver’s natural rhythm. We muck up it's groove. And in turn, we stuff up our own metabolism. If we stay up too late, we force the liver to keep going, and so it's unable to get on with the job of storage of glycogen. Instead, by staying up after dark,  we force the liver to dip into our existing glycogen stores, to break down the glycogen for a burst of energy that we need NOW.

We get a second wind, a burst of sugar in our blood stream, (and so happily blog and Twitter for another few hours......) and yet what we are really doing is depleting our energy for the next day. Going into energy overdraft. Maxing out the energy credit limit before pay day, so to speak.

Our liver doesn't get the time or opportunity to store up the glycogen it needs for the next day, and so the next day we have a liver that is depleted of glycogen. Our body then requires us to release stress hormones from our adrenal glands to keep us functioning. These hormones act to provide more sugar in the blood, but they also accelerate our heart rate, increase our blood pressure, and suppress our immunity so that we get poorly more easily. (And send us craving sugar and carbs........).

So whilst the stress hormones do give us energy, it is like the understudy to the real deal. Emergency use only. If we use this method to source our energy all the time, we get run down and sick. And we are tempted to eat crap. And we are STILL tired.

They say that any sleep you get before midnight is restorative and counts for double. I reckon they might be right.

SO, from today I am going to set myself a little challenge.

I cannot, sadly, get to bed at sunset, as this would mean leaving my kids to get their own dinner and bath themselves and read their own stories.(And whilst this is tempting, I had better not risk them being left to their own devices?)

BUT, I am going to make a concerted effort to get to bed before 9.30pm at the latest at least 3 nights a week. Use myself as a test case?

I'll let you know how I go..............


  1. Hehe - story of my life at the moment and I think a big part of my Husbands (Eve is evil). I have already made a choice to cut back on net time during the day and of the evening. Lets see if that helps.

  2. I LOVE early nights. In a perfect world, I would be in bed at 8.30pm every night and up at 6am every morning. Perfect. Unfortunately, I would then have no social life!

    I didn't know about the scientific explanations for it, but when I haven't slept enough, I always have a 'fat day' the next day. I feel like I need to eat heaps more just to give me the energy to get through the day too.

    Good luck with getting to bed early! Give it a few tries, because your body might take a while to get used to it (you might lie there awake for a while at first).

  3. good luck! I am just totally envious you can even think about getting to bed that early... and stay there.

  4. Oooh interesting! It all makes sense too - Last night was the first time in awhile that I've waited up for the Boy's dream feed instead of trying to sneak in an hour or 2 of sleep. Needless to say, I feel crap this morning!

    I will be waiting to hear how you go with the early bedtimes!

  5. that photo of a bed is so inviting. dang!

  6. Hey, great info! I didn't know that!!
    Good luck, you can do it. :)

  7. 9.30 is good, but I find myself waking about 5.30am! In fact this isn't too bad because I can get soooooooo much done before the kids wake, so I have modified it a bit. Bed around 9.30, reading for 30 mins - perfect!

    You explained that sleep credit stuff brilliantly. Sleep well and wake well Luce xoxo

  8. Good information and it makes sense. Sweet dreams!

  9. That was very interesting thanks for sharing that. It's 9:36pm here I think I better go to bed now and give my liver some rest. Good Night Lucy! (I never told you that is my nickname from my hubby)

  10. Just what I needed to read! but it is now 10.46pm & I am still reading blogs & facebooking.....every morning I regret staying up so late - then say I will go to bed early (by 9pm) but am so grateful for the freedom once the little ones are in bed I feel the need to stay up & enjoy the peace!!! vicious circle :(

  11. Quite possibly the most helpful post I have ever read. I'm pinning that one up on my wall and on my computer screen.

    Somehow, when you tell me I believe it. When hubby does, I pay no attention. Don't tell him.

    And on that note, at 11.28pm...this night owl bids you good night. PS You gotta tell me how you went!

  12. Really interesting Lucy. For a while I was going to sleep at 10pm each week nigth and it really worked. Recently I have got too hooked on twiiter/ blogs etc etc and been going to sleep way after midnight I join you today and will stop being on the PC after 10pm at work.

    Cheers Mich x

  13. Thanks so much for linking me. I already knew much of what you've written here, so have been internally debating (read: beating myself up) this for a while, since study and other online activities have crept into my night-time habits.

    For the record I'm reading and commenting far too late - it's 11.30pm. I know I'm accumulating a sleep debt, and asking my body to do more for less. I'm so glad to get this reminder xx (and I'll be looking out for the #hashtag reminders now... ;) )

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