While you were skipping on sleep, your enemy – unwanted pounds and their accompanying fats – has been busy making its presence felt like a thief in the night. Indeed, many people wonder about their weight loss failure despite their commitment to a healthy diet and workout program because they skipped on one other important aspect – sufficient number of hours spent in restful sleep. Here’s why sleep deprivation may be your biggest hurdle in weight loss.
Blame It on the Hormones
There’s food for the brain and then there’s sleep as food for the brain, too. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night depending on their own lifestyle and preferences. But when you get less than 7 hours of sleep every night, your body reacts by releasing more hormones that affect your feelings of hunger and fullness, particularly ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin sends signals to your brain that it is dinner time – or breakfast, lunch and snack time for that matter. Unfortunately, when you have been sleep-deprived for even a few days, your body will produce more ghrelin so you will eat more. You will soon gain unwanted pounds as you continue to subject your body to sleep deprivation.
Leptin acts as the counterpoint to ghrelin in the sense that it sends signals to your brain to stop eating (i.e., feeling of fullness). But when you’ve been on a sleep bender, your body’s leptin production plummets so your brain gets signals to eat more. Think about your body’s ghrelin levels increasing and leptin levels decreasing and you can just imagine your weight loss plans going haywire!
But it isn’t just ghrelin and leptin that you have to worry about ether. Your body’s cortisol levels also spike due to sleep deprivation – and cortisol being a stress hormone, your body will conserve more energy in fueling your waking activities. The result: Instead of burning fat and calories, your body hoards them so you can become fatter with each passing night without sufficient sleep.
And then there’s insulin, a hormone necessary in changing starches and sugars, among other food sources, into energy for daily life activities. In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, within four days of insufficient sleep, the body’s capacity in processing insulin becomes compromised. This resulted in more than 30% drop in insulin sensitivity, which any diabetic person can tell you why.
In a nutshell, sleep deprivation causes your body’s hormone production to go haywire, thus, affecting its ability to effectively lose weight. Just keep in mind, however, that sufficient sleep isn’t the be-all and end-all of successful weight loss because a healthy diet and exercise program is also crucial. In the end, it isn’t just the sleeping means losing weight but that too little sleep affects your body’s metabolism.
Be Part of the Solution
Since getting sufficient sleep every night is largely within your control, you should start taking responsibility for it ASAP, if not as soon as you finish reading this article on the relationship between sleep and weight loss. You can make small changes in your lifestyle that will contribute to healthier sleep habits for starters. You will find that making larger changes becomes easier when you have a solid foundation to build on.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Identify the things in your life that prevent you from getting sufficient sleep at night. These can include but aren’t limited to a sagging mattress, a non-conducive sleeping atmosphere, and a set of stressors from your personal and professional life. List them down so that you can act on them one item at a time.
- Resolve these things in ways that address your unique situation so that you can make the solutions stick, so to speak. For example, your mattress may have lumps and bumps that contribute to your back pain. You should then buy a new mattress within your budget, such as from Sealy, to replace the old one.
- Keep a sleep diary. You can write down the food and drinks you consumed, the activities you did before hitting the sack, and the time you went to sleep, as well as the feelings you experienced after waking up (i.e., feeling satisfied or groggy). You can then make changes in your bedtime habits that will improve your sleep experience. These can include avoiding soda, coffee and alcohol before bedtime and substituting chamomile tea; taking a warm relaxing bath; and turning off the television on time.
Sleeping well isn’t just for weight loss, as health experts will say. This is also important in your physical and mental health, as well as in enjoying the benefits of healthy, radiant and supple skin. The 7 to 9 hours of sleep you get isn’t wasting your time on Earth – it’s actually prolonging the good times you will spend with your loved ones!