Is Sleep Important for Healthy Weight Loss?
Are sleep and weight loss connected? Sleep is an often-neglected lifestyle factor that plays an important role in your health. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleeping fewer than the recommended seven hours each night can increase your risk of certain health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, stroke, and depression. When it comes to attaining healthy-weight goals, sleep should be a top priority up there with healthy eating and exercise.
The recommended sleep duration for adults is seven to nine hours a night, but many people often sleep for less than this. Research has shown that sleeping less than the recommended amount is linked to greater body fat, increased risk of obesity, and can influence how easily you lose weight on a calorie-controlled diet. A recent 2013 study found that healthy adults who only slept for 5 hours per night for 5 nights gained an average of 1.8 pounds when compared to sleeping 8.5 hours each night. It also resulted in a greater loss of fat-free mass (including muscle). Let’s talk about how sleep can affect your weight and ways to help.
Sleep Influences Appetite
Lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of key hormones that control the appetite- leptin, and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that decreases appetite, so when leptin levels are high, we usually feel fuller. On the other hand, ghrelin is a hormone that can stimulate appetite and is often referred to as the “hunger hormone” and when ghrelin levels are high, you feel hungry. Our bodies naturally increase and decrease the levels of these hormones throughout the day, signaling the need to consume calories.
Levels of ghrelin decrease at night because your body is not required to generate a lot of energy while you sleep compared to when you are awake. Leptin levels increase, telling your brain that there is no need to trigger hunger pangs.
Studies have found that sleep reduction increases the levels of ghrelin and decreases leptin. This combination can trigger the body into thinking it’s hungry and needs more calories. As a result of more ghrelin and less leptin, you can end up gaining weight
Sleep Can Trigger Cravings
If you find that saying no to less nutritious food is more difficult when you’re short on sleep, you’re not alone. A recent study found that lack of sleep can increase your desire to eat more high-calorie foods and decrease your ability to resist them. Researchers found that the areas of the brain responsible for reward are more active in response to food after sleep loss when compared to people who had good sleep.
Sleep Can Affect Your Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise is essential in helping people manage weight. Not getting enough sleep often results in having less energy for exercise and physical activity. You can work out temporarily with less sleep; over the long term, though, if you are better rested, you’ll be able to put in your best efforts during your workouts.
Recent research has shown that getting regular exercise can also improve sleep quality. This means that sleep may encourage you to become more active and becoming more active may support better sleep.
Sleep is Linked to Metabolism
How much sleep you get can influence your metabolism, particularly glucose (sugar) metabolism, directly linking sleep and weight loss. When you eat, your body releases insulin, the hormone that helps you process glucose in the blood. Losing sleep can impair your body’s response to insulin, reducing its ability to take up glucose. Over time, this stimulates your body to store more fat. We may recover from the occasional night of sleep loss, but in the long term this could lead to health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes
Sleep Can Affect Your Cardiovascular System
Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Blood pressure is generally reduced during sleep. Thus, decreased sleep can lead to a higher daily average blood pressure. This can increase your risk of heart disease and strokes. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to coronary artery calcification, a major predictor for coronary heart disease.
Sleep Can Help Boost Your Body’s Ability to Fight Illness
While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like antibodies and cytokines. These proteins direct immune cells to fight foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. When you are sleep-deprived, your immune system is not able to build up its forces and your body may not be able to fend off invaders and it may take you longer to recover from illness.
The bottom line: Along with nutrition and exercise, taking care of your sleep is one of the pillars of health.
If you are struggling to get enough sleep, try out some of the below tips to help get your sleep and weight loss schedule back on track!
What can you do to get a better night’s sleep?
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try going to bed around the same time each night and getting up at the same time in the morning, including on the weekends.
- Limit daytime naps (or avoid them altogether)
- Get enough physical activity during the day but try to not exercise within a few hours of bedtime
- Have an early dinner and avoid heavy meals within a few hours before bedtime
- Create a comfortable, quiet sleep environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
- Refrain from caffeine 6 hours before bedtime
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Turn off your electronics and try to avoid artificial light, especially within a few hours of bedtime
- Try to spend an hour before bed doing relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, or taking a bath
It’s common to have an occasional sleepless night – but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you deserve.
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