You follow a sensible diet and exercise regularly – the perfect equation for weight loss, right? Except your scales are telling a different story.
So, what gives?
Turns out there’s more to weight maintenance than eating right and working out – studies and research are now showing that sleep is a major contributing factor in weight management.
It’s well known that sleep plays a significant role in our health and well being, with sleep deprivation contributing to a long list of ailments and conditions. Sleep deprivation has been associated with impaired brain function, memory loss, depression, increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
And now add weight gain to that list. Here’s why:
Sleep deprivation affects your hunger and fullness hormones, specifically ghrelin and leptin. When you don’t get enough sleep, the body experiences increased levels of ghrelin, a “go” hormone that tells you when to eat. Conversely, leptin, a satiety and fullness hormone, which tells you when to stop eating, is decreased. The result is a perfect storm of conflicting hormones telling your body to EAT.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation reduces one’s ability to make good decisions, including decisions about food consumption. So, while you may be able to fight off your cravings for a candy bar when you’re well rested, your chances of remaining strong willed when you’re sleep deprived aren’t so good. This is because your brain’s reward system amps up when you’re running on fumes, causing you to seek comfort – often times in the way of food.
And, if altering hormones and bad decision making aren’t reasons enough to get more shut eye, maybe the transformation of your fat cells will be.
That’s right. Sleep deprivation literally changes your fat cells, reducing up to 30% their ability to respond to the hormone, insulin. Insulin, which is needed to regulate energy storage and use, helps fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood. However, when you become insulin resistant – a result of sleep deprivation – fats seep out into the bloodstream. This results in excess insulin storing fat in places throughout your body you don’t want it to – like your tissues and liver. Not only does this cause weight gain, but, over time, this decrease in insulin sensitivity can lead to serious health problems, namely Type 2 Diabetes.
Making poor sleep choices every once in a while won’t pack on the pounds. As long as you have a consistent bedtime and wake-time, with 6.5 – 8.5 hours of sleep MOST of the time, you should be fine. It’s when those sleep time slip-ups become the norm, rather than the exception, that it becomes troublesome.
If you don’t keep those slip-ups in check, you run the risk of them becoming a vicious cycle, ultimately resulting in a lifestyle, not just a night here and there of shut-eye shortage. That cycle, and eventual way of life, might go something like this:
You’re short on sleep so you order up the large latte, you know – for an extra caffeine boost. When that doesn’t work, you can forget about exercising. Um, too tired! And, because you’re so tired, cooking is out of the question – so, takeout it is. Then, chances are, you’re not mindful of what or how much you eat, therefore you OVER eat. The result then is being too full – uncomfortably full – to fall asleep. And the cycle repeats itself.
If you can’t loose weight and you can’t put your finger on why, maybe it’s time you look at your sleep. But, regardless of whether or not weight is an issue, sleep – consistent sleep – is a vital part of overall health and wellness.
Just something to sleep on.