Sleep and Weight: How Your Bedtime Habits Influence Your Waistline
Are sleep and weight loss related? It seems a bit of a stretch, but recent studies are showing that may be the case. Getting adequate sleep isn’t just good for the mind, it is good for the body as well.
We tend to think of sleep as a lazy activity. Americans seem to believe sleep is a waste of time. If we could take a pill to get rid of it, we would. But has our disdain for sleep met its match in our love of health?
Sleep is much more intimately related to our waistlines than previously thought. Getting a good night’s sleep can seemingly do much to aid in weight loss and missing sleep can have the opposite effect. Snoozing could be one of the most powerful dieting tools ever uncovered.
What Happens When we Sleep?
Sleep is far from time wasted. Though we may feel completely relaxed in a near-comatose supine posture, our bodies and minds and bodies are incredibly active.
When you are lying in your bed sleeping, your body does some pretty amazing things. Though much is yet unknown about the nature of snoozing, we have received some clues over the years.
To find evidence of what happens when we sleep, scientists often deprive humans and animals of it to see what happens. People who are partially sleep-deprived show signs of mental and physical impairment. Obviously, sleep provides us with something vital.
Sleeping helps increase ability of the brain’s cells to grow and repair themselves. As a matter of fact, sleep increases cellular repair all over the body through a number of different mechanisms. Our immune systems replenish our immune system and decreases inflammation. Hormones and other chemicals are released to help prepare our bodies for the next day.
Lose Sleep, Gain Weight
With all these things going on when we sleep, we must be burning all kinds of calories, right? We do burn quite a few, but still slightly fewer than if you were awake during that time. Is this why sleep duration has been linked to weight loss? Not likely.
Sleep deficits have been tied to gaining weight in many studies. We are still working out all the factors that contribute to this effect. Some scientists suggest that we may be able to eat more or eat later if we are awake for more hours. Others think there is more at work.
It seems the body’s metabolic rate changes with the amount of sleep. In other words, you burn more calories faster when you get more sleep. If you sleep less, you burn fewer calories, slower.
One study with 522 participants demonstrated the effect after just one half hour of sleep deprivation. Those who were sleep deprived were 72 percent more likely to be obese than those with adequate sleep schedules. After six months, the effects were still measurable.
Another study showed that people who have sleep deficits tend to overeat and gain weight after only one week. This is one of the first short-term studies looking at the relationship between sleep loss and weight gain.
Researchers speculated that lack of sleep may quickly throw off the body’s natural clock. Sleep-deprived participants tended to eat later and have a smaller breakfast. Participants gained nearly two pounds in five days on average. The body needs more food to make up for the sleep loss, but people tend to eat more than needed
Slim Down with Good Sleep
Don’t lose sleep over the fact that you could gain weight by….losing sleep. Science has more input on the subject. As they say, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While Newton’s third law isn’t necessarily scientifically applicable, it is relevant. There seems to be greater potential for weight loss when you get adequate and consistent sleep.
There are certainly metabolic consequences associated with sleep deprivation. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced levels of leptin and ghrelin as well as an increased body mass index. These two hormones’ role in the body is to decrease our feelings of hunger. Obviously if you have less of a hormone that suppresses your appetite, you feel more hungry and are likely to eat more.
If you get an adequate amount of sleep, your hunger hormones will likely be present in higher levels. This will help suppress your appetite and help you to keep from eating. A single night of sleep deprivation can have an effect on you and potentially negate the work you are doing with diet and exercise. An adequate weight-loss regime should include a full night’s sleep.
That is easier said than done though, right? Well, if you are having trouble sleeping at night or feeling tired when you arise, there are a few things you should consider. With the correct information, you’ll be able to get to sleep easier and feel more rested throughout the day. If you do it right, you may even find a few inches trimmed off your waistline.
Things You can do to Sleep Better
We need to stop treating sleep like a behavior we are ashamed of. Sleeping feels great and is absolutely necessary for proper health. Though you may feel your chances for good sleep are at the whims of the sandman, there are many things you can do that can improve the length and quality of your sleep, and who knows, you may lose some weight, too.
- Make sleep a priority – In the rat race of modern life, we often sacrifice sleep to have more time in the day. We need good sleep to perform well and avoid health risks associated with sleep deprivation. The first step to getting better sleep is realizing the how important it is.
- Have a consistent sleep schedule – Sleeping and waking at a similar time every day has been linked to lower body fat. Though your daily schedule may change, keep as close as you can to a regular sleeping schedule.
- Make a pre-bedtime routine – Our bodies like to know what is coming next through recognition of a regular routine. Help to shut your body down by showing it you are preparing for bed. Reading in bed or taking a shower as a pre-sleep routine will help your body prepare for a night of sleep.
- Stay away from tablets, phones and computer screens – Evidence is mounting associating the light from our favorite little devices with poor quality sleep. Looking at bright light in general can make it difficult to sleep, but blue light delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Power your devices off 1-2 hours before sleeping and brush your teeth earlier or under low light.
- Create a good sleep environment – A comfortable, dark and quiet place will help you get into a restful mindset. Find the right temperature for you and if there is outside noise, use a white noise machine or a fan to mask it.
Our nighttime rituals are much different than they used to be. Life is busier than ever. We have access to millions of different types of distractions in the palms of our hands whenever we feel. The natural rhythms humanity evolved with have been replaced largely by our manufactured schedules, but sleep is as important as ever.
Sleep and Health
As our ability to inquire scientifically increases, sleep continues to be linked to more and more aspects of health. This trend is likely to go on for some time. New studies are being undertaken every day. Sleep has always fascinated and perplexed humankind, it is exciting to finally see some answers to age-old questions.
Though mysterious, a good night’s sleep has always been considered good for a person. With this new data linking sleeping habits and weight loss, maybe we can make some headways on the obesity epidemic. At the very least, we can bolster the effectiveness of our diets and daily health routines with a good sleep schedule.
Modern life is hectic, and we think we can do more with less rest. But, quality sleep will make your waking hours more productive and healthy. Your parents were right, you SHOULD go to bed a decent hour every night. You SHOULD turn off the TV and phone. Make sleep a priority and you SHOULD see a difference in your overall health.
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