The Connection Between Weight Loss and Sleep
Achieving a weight loss goal can be challenging—keeping the weight off even more-so. You could be putting in hours at the gym and eating healthy, but still not see any change. Maybe it’s genetics. Or maybe, diet or exercise isn’t the real problem?
Sleep is an often neglected lifestyle factor that plays an important role in weight loss. The recommended amount of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours a night, but many people sleep much less than this.
The Link Between Metabolism, Appetite, and Sleep
A common hypothesis about the connection between weight loss and sleep involves how rest affects our appetite. A lack of sleep may affect the body’s ability to send the neurotransmitters ghrelin (promotes hunger) leptin (signaling fullness). When this cycle is disrupted, it leads to diminished feelings of fullness in those who are sleep-deprived. Studies have shown that people who did not sleep enough tend to favor foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates and snack more often.
The link between metabolism and sleep is due to our bodies’ response to insulin. When we get less sleep than we need, we impair our bodies’ ability to uptake glucose. An excess of glucose (from increased intake and reduced uptake into the tissues) can be converted to fatty acids and stored in our bodies, leading to weight gain in the long term.
Sleep and Physical Activity
If you’re feeling tired and groggy because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, you’re less likely to go to the gym or go for a jog.
Getting a good night’s sleep is especially important for people who exercise regularly. It allows our bodies to recover from the previous day while strengthening muscles and tissues. A study done in Brazil found that a lack of sleep decreases the body’s ability to make muscle—resulting in muscle loss and a higher incidence of injuries.
Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week can improve daytime concentration and decrease daytime sleepiness.
Oversleeping Is Also Harmful
Don’t just think about if you’re getting enough sleep—oversleeping can also have negative effects on our health and well-being. As with too little sleep, there is a risk of obesity among people who sleep too much and research suggests there is a link between weight gain and too much sleep.
There is a diet fad that involves using sleeping pills and excessive sleeping to lose weight called “narcorexia” which is equal parts unhealthy as it is dangerous. Sleeping 12, 15, or 20 hours a day to avoid eating and trigger weight loss is hazardous to health in the short and long term. This kind of sleeping deprives the body of the calories it needs, and activity that supports a healthy body. Studies show that people who sleep over nine hours were 21% more likely to become obese than normal sleepers.
Oversleeping throws the body’s bio clock and biorhythms off-cycle, disrupting our immune systems, metabolism, cognition, mood, appetite, and sexual activity. Sleeping for a healthy amount of time is critical in keeping your body in sync and functioning.
The connection between rest and weight gain has been researched, and findings show that those who are sleep-deprived have connections to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, and cognitive failure.
A good rule of thumb is to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night and to make sure you have no consecutive nights of poor sleep. Here are a few ways you can improve your sleep when you’re trying to lose weight:
- Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help lower your risk for health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
- Reducing artificial light exposure while trying to sleep to stop the disruption of your body’s circadian rhythm.
- Stop eating before bed. Research shows that avoiding late-night snacking is the best way to burn fat and lose weight.
- Reduce stress. Poor sleep and weight gain are often caused by chronic stress that develops coping mechanisms.
- Wake up earlier! People who wake up earlier are more likely to maintain weight loss than those who go to sleep later.
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