Sleep is incredibly important for nearly every aspect of your health, and your weight is no exception. Research suggests that when you are sleep-deprived, you’re a lot more likely to pack on extra pounds. Your body needs sleep in order to maintain optimal cellular function, support sustained energy levels throughout the day and maintain a positive mood—all of which are important components of a healthy lifestyle that leads to a stable weight range for your height and activity level. How does sleep impact your body weight? Read on to discover the connection between your body composition and the hours you spend resting after the sun goes down.
How Sleep Affects Your Weight
The average rates of both sleep deprivation and obesity in American adults have been rising steadily over the last several years. While there are many reasons for weight gain and insomnia, the link between sleep and increased body weight remains clear. Whether you want to know how to lose water weight or wonder why you can’t seem to decrease your body fat percentage, it’s important to understand the clear connection between sleep and your body’s inclination to gain or lose pounds of fat.
When you’re hungry, when you’re full and how much of your body needs to reach satiety are all regulated by neurotransmitters that send signals to your brain that it’s time to start or stop eating. In order to regulate these and all other chemical messengers properly, your body needs adequate sleep.
In the absence of a good night’s rest, your brain may overcompensate with certain neurotransmitters, including those that manage hunger cues, and prompt an increase in appetite throughout the day. Studies have shown that adults who experience sleep deprivation have an increase in the hunger hormone and may eat more than they do on days when they’ve had enough rest.
It’s no secret that a tired brain seems to move and function much slower or foggier than one that is alert and well-rested. When you lack sleep, your brain’s frontal lobe begins to suffer.
As a result, your decision-making capacity is weakened while your brain’s reward center is fired up to try to counterbalance your perceived needs. In this state, you’re a lot more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks or make poor nutrition decisions.
If you’ve ever felt irritable, hasty, overly emotional or relatively unpredictable while sleep-deprived, you’re well aware that your brain’s faculties are decreased when you haven’t gotten high-quality shuteye the night before. A tired brain is also not as equipped to make sound choices after adequate deliberation, and you’re more inclined to make rash or spontaneous decisions.
Your brain’s impulse control is greatly diminished when you’re tired, which can cause you to snack mindlessly, eat an extra cookie on your lunch break or opt for highly-processed fast food options for dinner.
Researchers have discovered that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, or at least an absence of weight loss, even when the rest of your lifestyle should result in weight loss. Study participants who lost sleep over a two-week stretch lost fewer pounds than those who slept between seven to nine hours during each night despite the caloric intake and exercise regimens between the two groups remaining unchanged.
This suggests a link between sleep and your body’s metabolic function. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body generates stress hormones that prompt your system to hold on to fat cells as fuel. As well, sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to have higher blood sugar, a harder time processing insulin and converting glucose and starches into usable energy and a decreased chance of eliminating stubborn fat stores around the body.
Though the majority of weight loss happens through diet shifts, exercise is an important component of any wellness program. Exercise can aid in a weight loss program by helping to contribute to a calorie deficit, but weight loss is more than just vigorous workouts and counting calories.
Those who live sedentary lifestyles are much more likely to have a higher body mass index than adults with active lifestyles. When you don’t get enough sleep, your energy is zapped during the day and you’re unlikely to want to hit the gym for a vigorous workout, let alone take a walk around the block after work.
How to Get Better Sleep
Increasing the amount of sleep you get at night can go a long way in keeping your waistline trim and your weight stable. To get better, more restful sleep when your head hits the pillow, a few simple lifestyle changes can help.
Stick to a Schedule
Big changes in the times you head to bed and wake up in the morning, especially on weekends or while on vacation, can make it more challenging to stick to a schedule during the workweek. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day so your body can regulate a proper rhythm that will make it easier to fall asleep when it’s time for bed.
Set Up Your Room
Is your mattress in need of a replacement? Do you keep distractions next to your bedside? If you find it hard to fall and stay asleep at night, you could benefit from a reconfiguration of your sleep space. Make sure you’re sleeping in a dark room kept at a comfortable temperature, and include a few relaxing elements in your bedroom such as a soothing candle, a white noise machine or soft lighting to really help your system wind down at night.
Eating too close to bedtime, consuming caffeinated beverages too late in the day or snacking on sugary foods at night can all keep your system awake and alert when it should be entering a restful state. Should you need a late-night snack, choose healthy, sleep-promoting foods such as tart cherries, oatmeal, bananas, nuts or hummus with veggies or whole-grain crackers.
Cut Off Screen Usage
The blue light from phones, tablets, televisions, computers and other electronic devices can trick your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake and alert. Establish a cut-off time for yourself in which you halt the use of all electronics and use only soft, warm lighting to illuminate your evening. Light that mimics the sunset can actually help your brain produce more melatonin, while bright, artificial light has the opposite effect.
One of the most common reasons for chronic insomnia is the presence of persistent stress and anxiety. This can make it hard for your muscles to relax and your brain to shut off, keeping you awake or causing you to toss and turn throughout the night. As part of your bedtime routine, practice a few soothing activities such as deep breathing or meditation to soothe your system and give yourself a better chance at a good night’s rest.
For all your sleep troubles, Alaska Sleep Clinic has a blog with answers you are looking for to your health questions. Sign up to receive ASC’s daily sleep blog below. Our website received over 5 million visits last year alone, making www.AlaskaSleep.com one of the top 5 sites in the world for sleep education.