A lack of sleep can have a profound affect on your weight. If you are not getting enough sleep you might skip your workout because you feel too tired, grab some takeout for dinner and go to bed late because you overate. If this pattern is something that happens occasionally, there is no real issue with it. The problem is that about 2/3 of North Americans do not get enough sleep each night. Getting enough sleep is an important factor in your health and has as much of an effect on your weight as eating right and working out.
Sleeplessness and Weight Gain
Getting too little sleep can promote weight gain. When you skimp on sleep you are setting yourself up to make horrible decisions. First of all, the lack of sleep wreaks havoc on the frontal lobe of your brain which is the area of the brain that is responsible for impulse control and decision-making. A good comparison is being under the influence of alcohol or drugs where you simply do not have the mental clarity to make reasonable decisions.
Being overtired means that the reward center in your brain is in hyper-sensitivity mode and wants something to help you feel better. You may be perfectly capable of controlling comfort food cravings when you have had a good night’s sleep but when your brain is starved for rest it tends to throw caution to the wind.
People who do not get enough sleep tend to indulge in late night snacking and their snack of choice tends to be high in carbs can boost blood sugar levels and increase the risk of pancreatic and breast cancer. Sleeping too little can also prompt people to consume larger portions of every type of food which can also increase weight gain. Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to intense cravings for high carb foods that are dense in energy. It all boils down to the fact that the sleepy brain has intense cravings for junk food and does not have the impulse control to say no to bad choices.
Sleep Fights Hunger Hormones
Sleep provides your brain with important down time and it is important to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. When you get less sleep your body tends to react accordingly and you may find yourself mindlessly snacking. A lack of sleep has a profound impact on your fullness and hunger hormones.
Two of the major hormones at play here are leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin sends a signal to the brain that it is time to eat and when you do not get enough sleep your body makes more of this hormone. Leptin tells your brain that you are full and when you don’t get enough sleep your brain gets the signal to eat more food. When you consider these two factors together it is pretty obvious that not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain. A lack of sleep can also cause a spike in cortisol which is a stress hormone that causes your body to conserve fuel while you are awake. This means that you are much more likely to hold onto your fat and it is going to be that much harder to lose.
When you have too little sleep you will also experience a spike in cortisol. This is a stress hormone and it sends signals to the body that energy should be conserved while you are awake. This makes it even more impossible to lose fat. Studies show that those on a diet who cut back on sleep were losing 55% less fat even though they did not change their caloric intake. They also felt hungry all the time and were not as satisfied after meals and had a lot less energy.
When you are deprived of sleep you feel metabolically groggy and you body’s ability to process insulin is greatly reduced. If your body does not respond properly to insulin it has problems processing fats contained in your bloodstream and stores them as fat. Too little sleep messes with your metabolism and can lead to weight gain.
How Can you Get a Better Night’s Sleep?
- If you want to get a decent sleep you will need to do a few important things:
- Avoid eating a heavy meal and drinking alcohol before bedtime. Avoid coffee, chocolate, tea and soda after 2:00 p.m. because caffeine can stay in your system for several hours.
- A bedtime ritual can help you to relax and get ready for sleep. Relax and release, have a warm bath, read or meditate.
- Consider a reliable sleep guide that can improve the quality of your sleep and help you to get to sleep faster.
- Make sure that you follow a schedule which includes going to bed and waking up at the same times including on weekends.
- Turn off your TV, cell phone or computer at least an hour before you head to bed.
- Make sure that your room is completely dark because it sends a cue to your body to release melatonin which is a natural sleep hormone.