Weight loss is arguably one of the most challenging health objectives. Yet, almost all of us have struggled to lose weight at some point.
Losing weight is difficult, but keeping it off can be a greater challenge. While the medical community is still unsure about the exact relationship between sleep and body weight, there are some apparent links.
Bottom line, getting a good night’s rest will have some pronounced benefits while trying to achieve your weight-loss goals. But, on the flip side, sleep deprivation will result in adverse health impacts.
Is There A Connection Between Sleep and Weight?
Americans have collectively been sleeping less and less over the past several decades. Not only are we sleeping less, but we’re also self-reporting a steadily decreasing sleep quality.
Interestingly, Americans’ average body mass index (BMI) is steadily increasing as sleep worsens. As a result, America today is sleeping less than ever and getting bigger than ever.
In light of those trends, researchers became interested in the potential link between weight and sleep. They found that inadequate or poor sleep can cause metabolic disorders, weight gain, and increased susceptibility to obesity and other chronic health issues.
There is an ongoing debate in the medical community about the exact nature of the relationship between sleep and weight. However, substantial evidence supports the positive correlation between good sleep and healthy body weight.
Can A Lack of Sleep Make You Hungrier?
One leading hypothesis about the connection between weight and sleep is that sleep can affect our appetites. We often think of hunger as our stomachs being empty and making gurgling sounds. But hunger is controlled by brain chemicals.
Ghrelin and Leptin
The neurotransmitters called ghrelin and leptin regulate our appetites. While ghrelin promotes hunger, leptin makes us feel satiated. This is because the body’s natural mechanism communicates with the brain to regulate ghrelin and leptin levels. That is, as the body increases and decreases levels of these neurotransmitters, so follows our feelings of hunger and satisfaction.
Now, here is the interesting part. A lack of sleep affects the body’s natural ability to regulate ghrelin and leptin.
One study found that men who only got four hours of sleep a night had increased ghrelin levels and decreased leptin levels compared to men who got ten hours of sleep. In addition, the dysregulation of the hunger neurotransmitters led the sleep-deprived men to have increased appetites and diminished feelings of fullness.
Several other studies have supported this indication that sleep deprivation affects human food preferences. For example, people are more likely to choose high-calorie and high-carbohydrate foods after sleep deprivation.
So that means a lack of sleep can leave us hungrier more often, less satisfied after eating, and more likely to make unhealthy food choices.
Can More Sleep Increase Your Metabolism?
Many of us probably think of metabolism when it comes to weight loss. As in, how fast or slow is my metabolism? And what exactly is metabolism? Metabolism is a chemical process wherein the body converts food into energy. We need our metabolisms to survive. That’s because all of our bodily functions require it. Everything from breathing to walking and weight-lifting requires energy, a part of metabolism.
Physical activity can temporarily increase your metabolism, but sleep cannot. In fact, our metabolism slows down while we sleep since our bodies use less energy during sleep. As a result, our metabolism is the slowest right after we wake up in the mornings.
However, while more sleep won’t necessarily increase our metabolism, sleep deprivation can lead to metabolic dysregulation. Sleep disorders are also associated with health risks that can ultimately lead to weight gain, like:
- Oxidative stress
- Glucose intolerance (blood sugar imbalance), which is a gateway to diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Disrupted circadian rhythms
Aside from the scientific explanations, spending more time awake equates to more opportunities to eat. Eating more without maintaining some form of physical activity will lead to weight gain.
How is Sleep Related to Physical Activity?
More sleep will result in more energy. Lacking sleep will leave you tired and make sports and exercise more dangerous. If you exercise while fatigued or sleep-deprived, you’re more vulnerable to making mistakes that cause injuries. This is especially true while performing exercises that require balance or coordination, like weight-lifting or tumbling.
Adequate, quality sleep will help you perform better and have more energy to power through your workouts. Exercise is a vital part of reaching your weight loss goals. In turn, consistent physical activity and exercise can help improve your sleep quality. The American Heart Association Recommends engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly. Additional benefits of regular exercise include:
- Increased mental clarity
- Decreased stress
- Decreased daytime sleepiness
- Better mood
- Healthy body weight
- Decreased risk for heart disease and chronic conditions
Good sleep is an integral and necessary part of staying healthy and maintaining overall wellness, especially if we are trying to lose weight. It’s what helps us rest, restore, and rejuvenate and show up for every new day as at our highest potential.
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