January 25th, 2022 by
If like many others, you have set yourself a target of losing some weight this year you will no doubt be planning how you can eat better and exercise more, but did you realise that something as simple as not getting good quality sleep can hamper your efforts?
Getting poor quality or insufficient sleep can actually counteract any efforts you make to lose weight and, by the same token, improving your sleep can help you to shed the pounds and become healthier generally.
Here are the reasons why poor sleep can not only disrupt weight loss but can actually cause you to gain weight.
Poor sleep affects weight hormones
Getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night is associated with a higher BMI and an increased risk of obesity. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case but one particularly significant one is likely to be the effect that lack of sleep has on the hormones that help tell us how hungry we feel.
When our stomachs are empty, our bodies release the hormone ghrelin, which makes us feel hungry and tells us to eat. When we have had enough to eat, fat cells release leptin, the hormone that tells us that we are full and should stop eating. Insufficient sleep can mess with these hormones, causing our bodies to release more ghrelin and less leptin and therefore making us hungrier. One study showed that subjects who were sleep-deprived consumed over 350 calories more than those who had sufficient sleep.
More likely to make poor food choices
People who are tired due to poor sleep may find it harder to make sensible food choices, both in terms of choosing the right foods and portion size. This isn’t you just being greedy, lack of sleep affects the way your brain works and the part of it that seeks reward becomes more stimulated by food. Subjects in a study were observed to have greater reward-related responses to high-calorie foods when they were sleep-deprived. There is even evidence to suggest that inadequate sleep can also make you pay more for food, so it could also hamper any resolutions to save money as well! Lack of energy is also thought to drive this desire to eat unhealthy foods in greater volume.
More likely to indulge in late-night snacking
If you go to bed late, it logically follows that there will be more time between eating your evening meal and sleeping and therefore you’re more likely to become hungry and eat again. Not only does this mean more consumption of foods, but it can also then affect your sleep by causing conditions like acid reflux or indigestion when you do go to bed. This creates a vicious cycle of poor sleep increasing eating and eating causing poor sleep. You should aim to go to bed in enough time to get a minimum of 7 hours sleep in before you have to wake and minimise food intake for 2-3 hours before sleeping.
A negative effect on metabolism
We all know that our metabolism is the rate at which we burn off calories. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the rate at which your body burns calories when at rest and, while affected by a number of factors, is very much influenced by sleep.
Studies have shown that sleep restriction can reduce RMR, and therefore reduce the number of calories the body can burn off while at rest. Lack of sleep also suppresses fat oxidation which is the process of breaking down fat cells into energy.
Lack of sleep = lack of energy = less inclination to be active
In very simple terms, the best way to lose weight is to move more and eat less. We have already looked at how poor sleep can make us eat more but it can also negatively impact how much we move. If you are sleep deprived, you will be tired and therefore will lack the energy required to increase activity, whether that be going to the gym, attending a class or simply taking the stairs instead of the escalator. This will obviously reduce the number of calories you can successfully burn off.
Improving sleep will not only give you more energy during the day but can actually improve physical performance, allowing you to get more from any activity you undertake. This can include improving reaction time, improving fine motor skills, increasing endurance, and increasing muscle power. Performing better at any activity can help you stay motivated to keep it up. Tiring yourself through exercise is also a great strategy for helping you sleep better, creating a positive cycle.
Better, longer sleep has a great many benefits to both physical and mental health so it should be a priority to everyone but especially those who wish to become healthier by losing weight. If your efforts to lose weight are not showing results, and you’re not sleeping well, this could very well be a reason why.
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