Did ya sleep well last night? I did, and I gotta say I’m pretty thankful for it too, given all the digging I’ve been doing into sleep and wellness for a segment I have on the topic this morning.
Clients are surprised when I ask them about their sleeping patterns. Why would a nutritionist want to know about anything else besides nutrition, I mean, weight loss is all about eating less/moving more, right?
The link between sleep and weight is strong. So strong, that a bad sleeping pattern could not only slow down, but completely sabotage your weight-loss efforts. In other words, you need to put sleep on your list of priorities right alongside better nutrition and regular exercise.
And it’s not just for weight control. More and more research is emerging on the link between sleep and weight loss, but also with blood pressure, diabetes, insulin sensitivity and even the risk of developing certain cancers. Not to mention that sleep is critical for anyone looking to bulk up, since muscle repair and rebuild happens when you sleep, not while you’re going beast mode at the gym, as most people think.
So I thought I’d do a round-up of 10 things you need to know about sleep and weight loss, in the hope that you will add a proper sleeping plan to your food and exercise plan.
Sleep and weight loss: 10 things you need to know
1. Insufficient sleep makes you overeat
One of the reasons sleep is essential to weight control is that it keeps two hormones in check:
1) Leptin: The “I’m full” hormone, in charge of telling you when you’re full and increasing energy expenditure (calorie-burning)
2) Ghrelin: The “I’m hungry” hormone, in charge of telling you when you’re hungry and stimulating appetite
When you get enough sleep, leptin levels go up, letting your brain know that you’re full and don’t need food, since your body is resting.
Problem is, when you’re running on low sleep, (less than 8 hours/night) leptin levels go down and ghrelin shoots up, setting you up for a bigger appetite and potential weight gain in the long run.
Researchers think this is your body’s way of ensuring you consume enough calories for the extra hours of wakefulness.
2. Short sleepers crave more (of the bad stuff)
It seems that not only will the lack of sleep leave you hungrier, but you’ll be craving the wrong things. Sleep restriction activates reward centers in the brain, which means sugary and high-calorie junk foods are the most satisfying and rewarding.
3. Lost sleep messes with metabolism
So far, it looks like lack of sleep sets you up for eating more calories. But there’s also evidence that lack of sleep can threaten the amount of calories you burn, too. It seems sleep deprivation reduces metabolic rate, i.e. your calorie-burning potential.
4. Less sleep, less fat loss
Your body is used to slowing down and conserving its energy at night. So it gets really rattled when you don’t sleep. This tells him that he needs to makeup for the extra hours of wakefulness and burn calories to compensate. But instead of burning fat, the short sleeper is more likely to hold on to fat and instead, turn to lean body mass for energy.
In this study, people following a calorie-restricted diet and getting insufficient sleep (5.5 hours) lost significantly less fat and 60% more lean body mass than a group following the same diet and getting adequate sleep (8.5 hours). Wowza.
5. Lack of shuteye may stress you out
Even partial sleep loss results in elevated cortisol levels (our stress hormone) the next morning, a hormone we already know intensifies feelings of hunger and promotes fat deposits in the abdominal region.
6. For good sleep, don’t be afraid of the dark
Darkness is important because melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone that regulates our sleep/wake pattern, is released at night and is suppressed by light. Which is a good thing, since it be problematic to fall asleep in the middle of the day.
The problem is that light close to bedtime, tricks the brain into thinking it’s still daytime, which delays the onset of melatonin and all of its sleep-promoting effects.
7. Your iPhone is sabotaging you
Light is disruptive to sleep, but it seems that artificial light, particularly short-wavelength blue light, does the most damage. Your cellphone, computer, energy-efficient lightbulbs and most modern-day electronics all emit artificial light, that’s really good at suppressing melatonin.
This is a tough one though, because I’m guilty of this; I routinely do a last check of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter before bed. Usually as a habit after setting my iPhone alarm.
Now they do sell goggles for this, but I just can’t see myself wearing them around the house…
So the other option would be to turn off electronics before bedtime, for at least an hour before bed, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
8. 7 to 8 hours of sleep is best. No more, no less.
We’ve been talking about sleep restriction, but don’t get your hopes up thinking sleeping-in will solve all problems. Oversleeping is no less harmful. In fact, there seems to be a U-Shaped association between weight and sleep with 7-8 hours being the optimal amount of shut eye, 5-6 hours and 9-10 hours of sleep, being equally linked to higher body mass index.
9. No, alcohol is not the answer.
You may fall asleep faster after a few glasses of wine, but it won’t be restful sleep. Alcohol reduces REM sleep, the deep restorative sleep our body needs, and makes you more likely to wake up during the night.
10. The weight/sleep link is strong in children, too
Finally, if none of these elements motivate you to spring-clean your sleeping routine, I’m hoping this last one will convince you to at least do so for the little ones in the house.
There is a strong association between too little sleep and increased weight in children. This study found short sleep to be a risk factor for obesity, independent of other elements, like physical inactivity or television-watching.
How many hours do YOU sleep? What’s one thing you will do to promote better sleep?
Photo credit: http://www.rebelleepoque.com/2012/06/17/one-day/