Sleep and Weight Loss – Of all the things we should be doing (or not doing) in order to lose weight, why did we put Sleep as the first step in your journey towards losing weight?
For one thing, studies have shown a close connection between sleep and weight loss, and that a lack of sleep is a surefire way to putting on weight. We already know what happens to your body when your hormones get out whack, but let’s take a closer look at what happens when you don’t get enough ZZZs.
Lack of sleep increases your food cravings.
The two main hormones which control your appetite are leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin signals your brain that it’s hungry. On the other hand, leptin tells your brain when you’re full and to stop eating. During deep sleep, ghrelin production decreases and leptin is at peak levels. You’re body is satisfied and can sleep easy. But when you are sleep deprived, the opposite happens. Your body actually makes more ghrelin and your leptin levels plummet. This results in a stimulated appetite with your body thinking it is constantly hungry, even after you’ve just finished eating. And you know what the outcome of this is…Overeating.
Lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to spike.
Although you may not necessarily be stressed or in danger, your cortisol level tends to spike from too little sleep. The reason for this is because your body needs more energy to stay away, so the stress hormone signals to your body to conserve energy (that is, by storing fat) in order to fuel your waking hours. On top of this, we already discussed the negative effects on weight when your cortisol levels become elevated, including cravings, breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise, storage of excess fat and depression. All ingredients leading to weight gain.
Lack of sleep slows down your metabolism
Even if you’re new to weight loss and dieting, you know that metabolism plays an important role in losing weight. The faster your metabolism, the more calories are burned. Besides being born with whatever metabolic rate you have, metabolism is also influenced by muscle. The more body muscle you have, the faster your metabolism because muscle burns more energy than fat. When you’re asleep, your body is working hard building, repairing and rejuvenating muscle tissue. But the less sleep you have, the less time your body has to perform these important processes. And since you won’t have as much muscle from lack of sleep, your metabolism slows down and you’ll actually wind up with more fat.
Lack of sleeps causes you to make bad decisions and fall into bad habits
The above tells only a part of the story of how sleep and weight loss are closely linked, because you know the rest of the story of what happens when you don’t get enough sleep — You become groggy so you reach for more caffeine to keep yourself awake. You lack energy so you pack in the sweets, sugar and junk food to give yourself that extra boost. Your body is too tired so you probably skip the gym or exercise. You’re too tired to cook so you end up eating unhealthy take out instead. Finally, you know all these things you are doing are not helping, but you are too tired to stop yourself and give in instead.
Your weight loss journey begins by getting a good night’s sleep – to get your body and your mind fit and prime and ready to start fighting off those big, bad fat bullies.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of 7 to 9 hours per day for adults. But the quality of sleep is more important than quantity and the amount of sleep you need is the amount that will stop you feeling tired the next day.
Here are some tips to getting a good night’s sleep
- Stick to a schedule even on weekends. Keep bedtime and wake up time consistent to help regulate your body clock. If you have a late night, it is better to sleep earlier the following evening rather than sleep in so as not to disrupt your body clock.
- Create a calming bedtime ritual. This signals your body to prepare for sleep. Try a warm bath or read a book.
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Heavy or spicy meals can cause indigestion or heartburn.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine in the evening as they can disrupt sleep.
- Shut down electronics at least an hour before bedtime. For some people, the light emanating from screens are stimulating to the brain, making it harder to relax and fall asleep. Some people insist falling asleep in front of the TV. While it may work getting you to sleep, it keeps your brain active hence disturbing your sleep pattern.
- Design your sleep environment. Evaluate your room and make it more inviting for sleep. Remove anything that may distract you getting a good night’s sleep (computer, paperwork, TV, clutter, etc.)
- Get comfortable. Make sure your mattress and pillows are supportive and free from allergens. Also check room temperature is comfortably cool (around 60-70 degrees F). If you have a snoring partner, consider using ear plugs or “white noise” machines, humidifier, fans or other devices.
- Turn out the lights. Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone melatonin, while light suppresses it.
- Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but it might prevent you from falling asleep later on. (Note, this does not apply to women who are pregnant or who have a medical need to nap frequently).
- Exercise daily. However, avoid exercise too close to bedtime, and also do not exercise at the expense of your sleep.
Sleep and weight loss are lifelong partners, and you really can’t achieve one without the other. But more importantly, sleep is like nutrition for the brain and is necessary for your health and well-being. If you have trouble sleeping, do see your physician so they can best advise you.
In the meantime, SWEET DREAMS!