When we think of sleep, we usually think of how it relates to our daily energy, not necessarily weight loss. But sleep is one of the many important aspects that contribute to weight loss and gain. It’s easy to overlook the major impact that a good night’s sleep can have on your weight. Here, we talk about how sleep affects weight loss and why it’s so crucial to get your beauty sleep.
How Sleep Affects Weight Loss
A study published by The Annals of Internal Medicine found that lack of sleep did, in fact, hinder weight loss. Ten healthy, but overweight participants lived in a clinical research center with their calories restricted to promote weight loss. However, the study showed when they only had 5.5 hours of sleep compared to 8.5 hours of sleep (with no other changes made), they lost less body fat and more lean body mass. They also reported feeling more hunger.
Elina Winnel, sleep expert and master sleep coach, says, “Getting adequate, quality sleep helps us to achieve a healthy weight level.” So a lack of sleep can really affect our weight loss efforts in a negative manner. Here is how.
Your metabolism slows down.
“When we sleep less, the regulation of our thyroid activity is disrupted. This thyroid regulation disruption often results in the production of fewer thyroid hormones,” says Winnel. “Because thyroid hormones regulate the speed of our metabolism, our metabolism can slow down when we get inadequate sleep.” There’s a higher chance that the food we consume converts to fat.
Winnel adds, “Also, sleep can affect our bodies ability to metabolize energy from food containing carbohydrates, by impacting our glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. The body’s secretion and response to insulin are reduced, similar to what occurs with type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can cause fat to be stored in the ‘wrong’ places such as tissues like your liver.”
Sleep deprivation also increases cortisol levels, which have commonly been linked with weight gain.
You eat more.
To lose weight, you have to maintain a calories deficit, that is, consume fewer calories than you’re burning. This means that you’ll have to control what you eat to keep your calories in check. However, “we also eat more when we have slept less. Sleep deprivation increases our production of ghrelin, the hormone that causes you to feel hungry. It also reduces the amount of leptin in your system—the hormone responsible for making us feel full,” Winnel says.
So not only is your body making you feel more hungry than usual, but it also takes longer for you to feel full. This is a recipe for eating more calories than you plan.
You gravitate towards foods high in sugar.
When you’re groggy and tired, sugary and fatty foods are more appealing. Winnel says, “There’s an increase in activity in deeper primal regions of the brain that respond directly to reward.” Our focus is on getting energy fast, which is why junk food and extra cups of coffee (and milk and sugar) are our usual go-to’s.
However, while these foods can give us fast energy, they will also leave us crashing and burning, which will do us more harm than good.
You have less willpower.
“Inadequate sleep also affects our impulse control,” explains Winnel. “Without enough sleep, activity in the frontal lobe is impaired. [This] reduces our ability to keep our impulses in check and make good decisions. So not only are we craving high energy snacks, we are less likely to be able to resist them.”
This is why, on a normal day, you may be able to satisfy your sweet tooth with a couple of small blocks of chocolate. However, with the absence of a good night’s sleep, you may find yourself eating the entire thing.
You’re more likely to skip your workout.
When you’re sleepy, exercising is probably one of the last things you’d want to do. As Winnel says, “Sleep significantly impacts our mood and motivation levels.” You’re more likely to skip the gym session when you’re too tired to move or not in the right headspace.
Get more than seven hours of sleep every night.
On average, you need around 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep every night. “However, studies indicate that over one-third of Australians are not getting adequate quality sleep on a regular basis,” says Winnel. The American Sleep Association also revealed that “35.3 percent of adults report [less than] 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period.”
While the occasional bad sleep happens, it shouldn’t be occurring on a regular basis. By consistently sacrificing your sleep, you’re impacting other areas of your life, including your weight loss efforts. So if you’re eating well and training consistently but not getting results, then try looking at your sleeping patterns. See if you need to improve the number of hours you sleep, as well as the quality. It could really make a huge difference.
As Winnel points out, “It’s good news really. Sleeping more is a much more enjoyable way to lose weight than going on a diet!”