Everyone knows that sleep is important, but did you know that lack of sleep severely reduces your ability to lose weight and keep it off! In fact a recent study suggests that missing out on just 30 minutes of sleep per day can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
There are several reasons for this phenomenon, but on one level it is pretty easy to understand. If you do not get enough sleep you will not have energy to live a healthy, active lifestyle, and when you are tired it is very easy to skip workouts and spontaneously reduce overall activity.
Sleep: Your Body’s Best Friend
Sleep is important for just about all the systems in your body, and lack of sleep reduces cognitive function including reduced reaction time, impaired decision making and memory. Sleep is also essential for the repair and recovery of the body.
Even if you think you get enough sleep you may still be suffering from the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately just a little sleep deprivation can have a significant effect on weight gain.
How Lack of Sleep Causes Weight Gain
Lack of sleep increases the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite significantly. Sleep deprivation also saps willpower and decision making ability so not only are you hungrier – you are more likely to make poor food choices. Sleep deprivation is a stressor and when you feel stressed you tend to choose high carb foods which boost serotonin.
At the same time the body’s ability to handle carbs properly is reduced. Your cells become less sensitive to the effects of insulin which is called insulin insensitivity. Insulin insensitivity is what type 2 diabetes is all about. If lack of sleep is a chronic condition you quite literally can make yourself gain weight and become diabetic!
In addition when you are really tired, a hormone called Ghrelin is boosted while Leptin levels drop. This is quite literally a double whammy because Ghrelin increases hungers and Leptin tells you when you full and satisfied. So you are hungrier and yet you do not feel as satisfied when you do eat so you eat more.
In fact, studies have shown increased calorie intake of over 300 extra calories per day in sleep-deprived people.
How To Improve the quality and time you spend sleeping
There are simple steps to keep lack of sleep from sabotaging your weight loss efforts. The first step is to figure out your bedtime based on when you need to get up in the morning. Count back a full 8 hours and set that as your bedtime. You also want to go to bed and wake up at the same time all the time because having a consistent bed-time and waking time helps set your body clock.
It is also critical to get as much bright light exposure as possible as soon as you wake up – going outside for even 5 minutes and exposing your eyes to the bright blue light of the sun is as important as reducing your night-time exposure to light and blue light in particular. Turn down your lights as much as possible during the evening and minimize screen time near bed time. You can also install free blue light filter programs on your phone and computer – flux for computers and twilight app for phones.
It is also important to avoid all sources of caffeine except for first thing in the morning. Caffeine is not a horrible thing, but too much to late can really have a big negative impact on your sleep. Also avoid alcohol because drinking reduces the quality of your sleep as well. Just cutting down or cutting out alcohol and caffeine often makes a dramatic difference in sleep quality within a week to 10 days.
The other key is making sleep a priority. Sleep is directly linked to higher quality of life and resistance to illness and disease. Sleep is as important as diet and exercise so make getting a good night’s rest a priority.