Sleep and weight loss

You probably know that in order to lose weight you need to focus on one thing: your diet. As you continue your weight loss plan you might start to think about another way to get rid of unwanted pounds and kilos: exercise.

However, there are other areas of life that have an impact on your weight as well. Areas that we often overlook, such as stress levels and amount of rest and sleep.

This week I’m focusing on sleep.

Sleep And Weight Loss

In this post I will write about the importance of sleep when it comes to losing weight:

  • How much should you sleep?
  • Is there a connection between sleep and weight loss?
  • Can you lose weight by paying better attention to the way that you sleep?

How much sleep do you need?

There has been a lot of research on this subject and most studies suggest this is the answer:

How much sleep do you need

We need about 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night. Studies suggest that if you sleep less than 5 hours or more than 9 hours a night you are more likely to gain weight. It is suggested that two thirds of Americans are not getting enough sleep a night.

But it isn’t just the number of hours you sleep a night that counts:

The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity. Even if you do get enough sleep, the quality of your sleep may not be good enough.

Is there a connection between sleep and weight loss?

There are many ways that sleep – or lack of it – can affect your weight.

Does this sound familiar to you:

Sleep deprivation

It is a fact that you are more likely to make bad choices when you are sleep deprived.

There’s a lot of research that suggests you are more likely to eat more and go for high-calorie foods, and you will have less energy to exercise – or do any other physical activities for that matter. It’s like your body wants to save all the energy it has while at the same time craving for more energy (=food).

Another thing is that the longer you are awake at night, the more time you have to eat! You could cut down on late night snacking by going to bed a bit earlier. It all adds up.

Research on sleep deprivation

If you don’t get enough good quality sleep there will be problems with your metabolism.

If you are sleep deprived – for just a few days – your body’s ability to process insulin drops. A research suggests that it can drop by over 30 % in just 4 days. And this is really bad news if you’re trying to lose weight: Your body will end up storing fat.

There was a research on two groups of people who were on a calorie restricted diet. The other group slept well while the other group was sleep deprived for two weeks. They both lost the same amount of weight. However, the amount of fat the sleep deprived group lost during this 14 day period was 55 % less, even though they ate the same amount of calories. I think this is quite a dramatic result and proves that weight loss is not always just about calories in, calories out. After all, we want to lose fat, not muscles!

Another study found that a group of people who were sleep deprived (they had just 4 hours of sleep a night) ate almost 300 calories more a day compared to what they ate after they had 9 hours of sleep. That means that you could lose – or gain – more than 2 pounds or 1 kg of body fat a month.

It is not known exactly why we eat more and crave for high calorie food when we’re tired, but there are some theories:

Why we eat more and get more cravings when we are sleep deprived?

There are two hormones that we need to focus on, ghrelin and leptin. This is how these hormones work in your body:

Ghrelin will tell your brain:

”Go ahead, have something to eat!”

Leptin should whisper in your ear:

”You should stop eating now.”

The problem is this:

When you haven’t had enough sleep your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin
⇒ You will gain weight.

There are other issues too:

Sleep deprivation affects our brains by making it harder for us to make good decisions and control our impulses. And the reward centers in our brains are looking for things to comfort us.

Cortisol, which is a stress hormone, plays an important part as well. When you haven’t had enough sleep your cortisol levels will spike. This will tell your body to hold on to all the energy it has so that you will have energy to make it though the day.

Problems sleeping if you are overweight

Sleep and gaining weight is one thing – being overweight and trying to get some sleep is another.

You see there’s a circle:

You might gain weight by not sleeping enough but you may also have problems sleeping when you’re overweight: You might have trouble sleeping or you’re sleep is lighter when you’re overweight. Another sleep related problem that is associated to overweight is sleep apnea.

If you get enough sleep and you feel like it’s good quality sleep and you still feel tired you should first check your diet. If that is OK too you should go and see a doctor – just to check there are no underlying problems.

So overall, sleeping really seems to have a surprisingly big impact on weight loss.

Are you making sure you sleep enough?

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