After decades of research and numerous study, the connection between sleep and body weight is pretty clear. Good quality sleep is an essential part of any weight loss plan.
Not getting enough sleep will sabotage your weight loss efforts in multiple ways. In this post, we look at some of the ways that sleeping can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight.
5 Ways Sleep Affects Body Weight
1. Lack of Sleep Increases Hunger and Cravings
Have you ever noticed that you feel hungrier when you’ve not slept well? That’s because sleep deprivation causes a sharp rise in the hunger hormone, ghrelin. So you are more likely to consume more food when you don't sleep well, which can lead to weight gain.
Lack of sleep also triggers cravings. Your brain is more attracted to high-calorie foods. And because sleep deprivation also impairs your decision making ability, you easily give in to these cravings.
2. Sleeping Late Makes It Easier to Snack
Late night snacking can be a huge problem if you are looking to lose weight. When we stay up late watching or playing games, we are more likely to snack on unhealthy foods. One reason could be what we’ve discussed above - the brain loves high-calorie foods when it hasn’t gotten adequate rest.
Boredom is also a common reason for late night snacking. You could also just be hungry especially if you like taking your dinner early.
So hitting the sack early not only ensures you get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep, it also eliminates those late night snacks that tend to put on the pounds.
3. Disruptions to the Circadian Rhythm Can Cause Weight Gain
Late nights, sleep disruptions and not getting enough sleep can mess up with your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
A disruption in the circadian rhythm has been linked to a greater risk of obesity. One possible explanation for this is that it affects metabolism. Other studies suggest that circadian interruptions trigger increased fat cell growth.
4. Lack of Sleep Reduces Physical Activity
This is an obvious one. When you don't sleep well, your energy levels plummet along with your physical activity.
I’ve found that falling short of my ideal 8-hour sleep by just one hour is enough to interfere with my performance at the gym. Even going on a light jog is a problem.
Persistent sleep deprivation is highly likely to lead to a less active and more sedentary lifestyle. Combine that with increased hunger and cravings and you have the perfect recipe for weight gain.
5. Sleep Deprivation Alters Glucose Metabolism
Lack of sleep doesn't just cause weight gain, it also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. This is caused by a change in glucose metabolism.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. Typically, these are the pre-conditions for type 2 diabetes. The increased level of insulin in the blood also promotes more fat storage.
If you are already diabetic or pre-diabetic, then the risk of weight gain from poor sleep is even higher.
How to Sleep Better for Weight Loss
Here are some tips on how to improve your sleep and, hopefully, lose weight.
- Start by establishing a healthy sleep routine. Have a set bedtime that you stick to, even on weekends. 1-2 hours before bedtime, put away electronics and do something that relaxes you.
- Make sure your bedroom is sleep-friendly starting with the bed itself. A comfortable mattress and bedding can make a huge difference in sleep quality. Also find ways to keep the bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
- Increase your activity level during the day. Exercise, even if it is a brisk 20-minute walk, will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid anything that causes sleeping difficulties such as excessive alcohol, caffeine in the afternoon or evening, and highly processed foods.
- See a doctor if you suspect you have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, chronic insomnia or narcolepsy. You may need medication to sleep better.
I am not saying that sleep will magically burn away the fat. But getting 7-9 hours of high quality sleep every night makes weight loss easier.