Losing weight is probably one of the new year’s resolutions of many people and it is not-so-secret that one of the effective ways to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more. What many people don’t know is that sleep can actually help you lose weight. Sleep is a powerful factor not only in weight loss but in health in general.
Without adequate sleep, you may feel groggy and cranky, but most importantly, you could be gaining weight. According to John M. Jakicic, a director of the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, poor sleep is one of the contributing factors to weight gain. It causes hormonal imbalance, which could affect your health and would set you up for weight gain. (1)
Sleep deprivation and weight loss
Sleep, many people take for granted, is a powerful medium to keeping everything in check – weight, mood, and health as a whole. Sleep deprivation is linked to reduced muscle mass and strength, which can affect posture and flexibility. Muscles and bones have to be strong to function well and to keep you looking fresh and youthful. Bones and muscles need quality sleep to do the required work.
There are various studies conducted to establish the relationship between sleep deprivation and weight as summarized in the 2012 report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The studies involved men and women sleeping less than six hours a day, which showed energy imbalance and weight gain. Adults who don’t get enough sleep have the tendency to crave for foods more than the usual.
They would crave for high-fat and high-caloric content. It shows that people tend to eat more when sleeping less. There are theories to back up this claim. Sleep deprivation disrupts appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin. The former signals the brain that you already reach the satiety level while the latter stimulates the appetite. A person who lacks the quality of sleep increases the level of ghrelin and decreases the level of leptin. In other words, your craving for foods intensifies while your satiety level decreases. So, you would eat more and more which could eventually lead to weight gain in all the wrong places. (9)
Another study featured in the International Journal of Obesity showed that sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep can greatly interfere with your weight loss. The result showed that obese people who didn’t sleep well but undergone extreme dieting loss less weight than people who dieted and sleep well. (10)
What is even alarming is that the health problems associated with lack of sleep go beyond weight. It can lower insulin sensitivity which is one of the markers for diabetes. It could also increase the risk of high blood pressure and lowers your body’s defense mechanisms against infection. According to the United States-based National Sleep Foundation, adults should have at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. Quality sleep – at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep is a part of a successful weight loss.
Ways Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight
If you are trying to lose weight, then you need to get sufficient sleep. Sleep weight loss is possible through the following ways:
#1 – Sleep curbs hunger
Hormonal imbalance causes unnecessary food craving and one of the factors that cause hormonal imbalance is lack of sleep. Leptin and ghrelin are appetite hormones that are released during sleep. Ghrelin is released in the stomach and its function is to signal hunger in the brain.
On the other hand, leptin is a hormone released from fat cells responsible for suppressing hunger and signaling satiety level in the brain. If you are not getting enough sleep, the body will compensate for the lack of sleep by releasing more ghrelin and less leptin causing you to feel hungry. Chances are, you would eat more than the usual to reach the desired satiety level.
#2 – It lessens late-night snacking
it is an undeniable truth that eating too much can cause weight gain. Staying awake late at night may cause you to consume calories you don’t need. Not to mention, the body’s metabolism slows down at nighttime. So, excessive food intake at night can dramatically affect your weight.
#3 – Sleep helps you burn more calories
An adequate amount of sleep helps restores your energy level and invigorates the body. You will have more energy to perform various activities, which could eventually help trim down excess calories. (2, 3)
#4 – It facilitates fat loss
when trying to lose weight, you should not only focus on the numbers on the weighing scale but also your dress size. You could be getting slimmer without getting lighter. That is because fat is lighter than lean muscles. However, you won’t lose fat if the body is not getting the required amount of sleep on a day to day basis.
#5 – Sleep helps you make sound decisions when shopping for foods
Don’t you know that sleep can significantly affect your food choices? It alters the functions of the brain making it hard for you to come up with healthy choices. Sleep deprivation affects the activity of the brain’s frontal lobe, an area in the brain responsible for self-control and decision-making. You are less likely to make a sound decision if you are sleep-deprived. It makes you feel exhausted and hungry and increases the possibility of putting foods in your cart that is loaded with calories. (4)
#6 – It keeps your brain focused
For the brain to function the way it is supposed to, you need to give it ample time to rest – sleep. Without adequate sleep, the brain functions differently. The brain of sleep-deprived people has reduced activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex; the area of the brain primarily responsible for behavior and inhibition control. A lower inhibition causes you to eat more foods, especially if you are exhausted. Sleep deprivation also increases insular cortex activation; an area in the brain that regulates pleasure-seeking behavior.
#7 – Sleep has a direct linked on weight gain and obesity
one of the primary risk factors for weight gain and obesity is poor sleep. The sleep requirements vary from one person to another. However, one thing is universal, there is a noticeable change in weight when a person is sleep-deprived. Not to mention, many sleep-related disorders are aggravated by weight gain such as sleep apnea. (5)
#8 – Sleep improves your resting metabolism
The resting metabolic rate pertains to the number of calories the body burns when at rest. It varies from one person to another and is affected by a lot of factors – age, gender, weight, height, and muscle mass. Sleep deprivation can lower your resting metabolic rate. It can also burn more muscles than fat causing a significant decrease in resting metabolic rate.
#9 – Sleep can greatly enhance physical activities
Aside from feeling cranky, sleep deprivation can also affect your ability to perform physical activities. It causes daytime fatigue making you less motivated to exercise. On the contrary, adequate sleep can greatly improve your athletic performance. You will be more energized and motivated to perform even the most strenuous exercise routines. (6)
#10 – Sleep helps prevent insulin resistance
Insulin is one of the most important hormones in the body. It moves sugar from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as an energy source. In cases of insulin resistance, some sugar remains in the bloodstream causing you to feel hungrier than usual. Excessive eating leads to an increase in calories and unused calories turn into fat. Not only will you gain weight but you will also be predisposed to diabetes. Poor quality sleep can cause insulin resistance making you susceptible to weight gain and diabetes. Fortunately, it can be prevented from happening with the right amount and quality of sleep
#11 – Adequate sleep helps you perform at your best
The measure of sleep isn’t all about the quantity or number of hours but more on the quality. Were you able to experience restful sleep? It is a state where you are in deep uninterrupted sleep or so-called REM sleep (rapid-eye movement). It enables your body and brain to recover so that you will feel energized and invigorated the following morning. Hence, making you feel more than ready to take on physical challenges like working out. (7)
#12 – Sleep helps you burn calories
Don’t you know that even if you are not working out you still burn calories? There is a thing called resting energy expenditure or the number of calories the body burned when at rest. A well-rested body, adequate sleep, burns 20% more calories while at rest than those who are deprived of sleep.
#13 – Sleep helps you feel fuller for a long period of time
One of the challenges in trying to lose weight is hunger pangs. Fortunately, it only takes a good night’s rest to fight the urge to reach for something to eat. What adequate sleep does is it keeps the hunger hormones in line. Hence, unnecessary food craving can be avoided. You will only eat foods in times of legit hunger such as taking the primary meals of the days.
#14 – Sleep makes it easy to stick to the diet
Sticking to a diet plan can be extremely challenging, especially if you are used to eating a lot. It becomes even more challenging if you are sleep-deprived as it puts your body in a stressful mode. To compensate for the stress, the body would tend to cling to foods – making you hungry than usual. On the other hand, if you get adequate sleep, the body feels rested and relaxed thereby preventing unnecessary food cravings. Hence, it would be easier for you to stick to your diet plan.
#15 – Sleep helps activate thinning fats
You might think that fats are all the same, but they are not. Some fats work to help your body burn energy and they are brown and beige fat or also known as thinning fats. They are totally different from white fat. Thinning fats do a lot of beneficial job for the body such as:
- Regulates blood sugar level
- Improves the function of insulin
- Safeguards the body from obesity
- Activates proteins that work to burn calories
What does sleep have to do with thinning fats? An adequate amount of sleep increases the production of thinning fats. As you sleep, a sleep hormone called melatonin is released which increases the production of both brown and beige fat aka thinning fats, which help the body lose weight. (8)
How to improve the quality of sleep?
Consistent sleep and wake times
The sleep requirement varies according to age but the safe zone is between seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. A consistent bedtime schedule ensures you will get adequate hours of sleep every day. More so, it also reduces the onset of sleep-related disorders and helps maintain healthy body weight.
Avoid eating a lot at nighttime
Several hours before bedtime, make sure you limit your intake of fatty foods, especially those containing a high level of sugar and caffeine.
Make your sleep quarter conducive for sleeping
Your bedroom could be the one causing you to be sleep-deprived. Turn your bedroom into a sleeping haven by keeping away distractions such as electronics. It should be dark and cool. If you are having a hard time sleeping at night, then you might want to wear eye masks. They are a helpful tool in keeping you well-rested at night.
Choose the right mattress
Sleeping comfortably means sleeping in a high-quality mattress. It does not need to be the most expensive mattress. What matters the most is it provides support to the back. If you experience neck and back pain upon waking up in the morning, then it is high time for you to replace your old mattress.
Have a pre-sleep routine
It would help a lot if you are going to condition your body and mind for sleep and it can be done through the pre-sleep routine. It includes taking a warm bath before going to bed, drinking hot milk, reading a book, and listening to music. You just have to figure out which work works best for you.
Don’t you know that the only food that contains melatonin is cherry? Melatonin is a chemical in the body that regulates sleep. If you are having a hard time sleeping at night, try eating raw cherries or drink or eat something that has cherries. It would do wonders.
A hard workout will have you look forward to a goodnight’s sleep. Not to mention, exercise is one of the ways to beat stress. A few hours before bedtime, you have to perform at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise.
Avoid drinking alcohol close to bedtime
A lot of people drink wine and other alcoholic beverages to have a good night’s sleep. Yes, it may help you fall asleep easily but you won’t get deep sleep. You will feel exhausted and restless the following morning.
What to keep in mind?
Although having an adequate amount of sleep can do wonders in your weight loss journey, it is important to note that more sleep does not always equal diet-level weight loss. It means that you should not completely rely on quality sleep to lose weight. Healthy food choices and exercise are still the top priority. What you need to do is to add quality sleep in your weight loss routine as you could easily lose weight if your body is properly rested.
The weight loss process isn’t instant. It is not a quick fix. It is going to be gradual. Most importantly, it is not always the hours of sleep but the quality of your rest. There is a huge difference between a person who has six hours of good quality sleep and a person who sleeps the same hours but of poor quality. Sleep for weight loss is all about having a lifestyle that will enable you to go out, think, and do more, which will eventually have a positive impact on weight loss.
The Bottom Line
Losing weight can be an extremely challenging thing, especially for people who are used to eating a huge amount of food. It is not only the amount of food but the types of foods too. Exercising is also an important factor in achieving a healthy body. However, losing weight isn’t always about eating right and exercising. It also includes getting quality sleep. A lot of people take for granted the importance of quality sleep. Little did they know that poor sleep alters the body’s response to food – increases appetite and inability to resist food craving. Little did you know it, it becomes a cycle. Less sleep increases the possibility of weight gain. On the other hand, establishing a healthy sleep habit helps your body maintain a healthy weight.