Is the lack of sleep making you fat?

When in the midst of a weight loss journey, there are many people who may put their focus on diet and exercise.  While this is not wrong, it is also not balanced.  You see, there are several aspects to effectively and safely losing weight; and if you miss one of the important points, you may severely impact your overall success.  In the same way you can’t have a decent cake without all of the necessary ingredients; you can’t have the weight loss success you want without a balanced approach.

The aspect of weight loss that we are discussing in this article is sleep.  Ah… sleep, the first thing to go when life gets hectic and there is more to do than hours in the day.  Sleep:  that thing that “you get plenty of when you’re dead”.  Thinking that staying up all night studying or playing has no relevance to your weight is a mistake that millions of people make on a regular basis.

Does it Really Matter?

Diet books, magazines and news stories are replete with advice on getting plenty of Z’s each night; but do we really need all that is touted?  There is no need to jump to the other end of the spectrum and insist on sleeping 10 hours each night!  Getting more sleep, if you already get 7 ½ or more hours per night, isn’t going to begin a weight loss phenomenon.  However, if you are one of the many who sleep less than 7-7 ½ hours a night, a little more sleep could prove to be THE factor that helps you break out of a weight loss rut.

A Closer Look

The obvious need for sleep is the direct impact on energy.  Clearly, when you are tired from lack of sleep, you have less energy and motivation to head outside for that run, or hit the gym for some intense training.  We tend to stick with the obvious and see this impact only, missing the hidden dangers of sleep deprivation.

When there is a lack of energy, the natural physiologic response is to reach for foods that will provide the energy the body needs to operate.  Thus, those who are sleep deprived run more of a risk of ingesting high carbohydrate foods; especially unhealthy ones, such as potato chips or sugary drinks.  While it might seem harmless to take these foods in (they’re providing energy to get to the gym, right?), the reality is that their impact on the body lingers long after the workout is finished.  In the end, this habit of ingesting high carbohydrate foods to gain energy for exercise turns out to be a vicious cycle.


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Sleep is not only a necessary part of rejuvenating the body; but is also highly important to the metabolism.  We eat because our bodies are given signals to eat.  Those signals come from hormones – two in particular.  The hormones ghrelin and leptin are directly affected by sleep; and directly affect our eating patterns.  Ghrelin is a hormone that tells the body “Hey!  You’re hungry!”  Leptin, on the other hand, tells the body when to stop eating.  When a person is sleep deprived, the result is an increase in the amount of ghrelin and a decrease in the amount of leptin in action.  Bottom line:  there is a higher craving for food and a lowered resistance to overeating.  Double that with the body’s need for energy and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!

Understanding the importance between sleep and weight loss is one thing.  Doing something about it is another matter entirely.  Lack of sleep may arise from simple reasons, such as not understanding how important sleep really is; or it may come from an underlying issue, such as a sleep disorder or even stress.

In order to facilitate weight loss, take the time to investigate your sleeping patterns and issues.

This list may offer a good place to start:

  • Pets are wonderful for adding joy and companionship to a home.  However, allowing pets to sleep in your bed may cause enough disturbances to inhibit a good night’s sleep.
  • Diet affects sleep and sleep affects diet.  This is a two way street that definitely impacts weight loss success.  First and foremost, it is important to eat well before bed time.  While you don’t want to go to bed hungry, you also don’t want to hit the sheets on a full stomach.  It is advisable to eat your last meal several hours before bedtime and have a small snack an hour or so before sleep.
  • Keep sleeping space quiet and comfortable.   A room that is too warm can impact sleep.  The ideal temperature for sleep is 20-22 degrees Celsius.

Sleep can be impacted by many different factors, and has an immense impact on a person’s overall health; particularly when it comes to hormones and weight loss.  Investigating causes of sleeplessness pays huge dividends on many levels, and may be the key to improving your weight loss efforts.

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