An estimated 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. are battling chronic insomnia and sleep disorders. These seemingly harmless conditions brought on by stress, changes in sleep schedules or lifestyles, and medications can be quite disruptive.
Over time, it can lead to memory issues, difficulties concentrating, reduced problem-solving skills, weaker immunity, higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, and so on.
In this article, we take a look at the connection between sleep and weight loss, but first—
Understand Why We Need Proper Sleep With the Right Duration
As adults, we need 7 or more hours of sleep daily to maintain optimal health.
While the concept of quality sleep is often correlated with rest, our brains and bodies need to recover from any damage sustained throughout the day. During sleep, our breathing and heart rate slow down while our muscles gradually relax to keep us in a state of rest.
Despite the body being still, the brain is at work, enabling critical cognitive abilities. It releases antioxidants via melatonin. A 2005 study showed workers with rotational shifts have lower antioxidant capacities. Sleeping more could reduce inflammation, encourage recovery from oxidative stress, and boost antioxidant capacities. This can improve your metabolic health which could slow down the effects of obesity.
In addition, your body regulates hormones like leptin and ghrelin as you sleep, which is where the association between sleep and weight loss lies.
The Vital Connection Between Sleep and Weight Loss
A 2022 review shed light on how sleep-wake cycles affect weight loss and weight regulation. They established a strong connection between the circulating levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (an appetite suppressant) in the body.
According to a 2008 study among healthy men with normal weights, just one night of sleep deprivation can decrease leptin levels and increase ghrelin levels.
Essentially, it lowers your appetite resistance and gives your hunger full rein.
But it doesn’t stop at altering the endocrine regulation of hunger and appetite. The loss of sleep also leads to increased consumption of calories. So, if you find yourself reaching for foods high in sugar, fat, and salt when you’re sleep-deprived, this is the reason behind it.
Even if you’re dieting, insufficient sleep can undermine your efforts by altering appetite-regulating hormones. This can compromise the maintenance of a fat-free body mass and promote the retention of fat after a period of excessive food intake.
Plus, a meta-analysis found that being a short sleeper can increase your odds for obesity. An analysis of adults in the same report showed that losing just one hour of sleep daily can lead to a 0.35 kg/m2 increase in BMI. Imagine that!
Importance of Proper Sleep
While research has highlighted the troubling consequences of getting less sleep, it also shows that getting sufficient rest can let you regain control. Getting good sleep can:
- Help you think more clearly and perform better at work
- Improve your reflexes and reaction times
- Lower your risk for chronic health conditions
- Regulate your mood
- Sharpen your focus as well as decision- and problem-solving skills
- Reduce stress and help you tackle stressors better
As you can see, the benefits of good rest extend beyond weight loss and weight management.
Practical Tips To Improve Sleep
For most of us, sleep doesn’t come easily—not even when we count sheep!
But that doesn’t mean it’s a hopeless pursuit. Certain habits can help you establish a highly effective sleep routine so you can consistently enjoy quality shut-eye, even on weekdays.
1. Create an Environment That Promotes Rest
If you want to improve your quality of sleep, you need to create a sanctuary that’s conducive to sleep. This can be done by:
- Keeping your bedroom tidy and free of any clutter that might grab your attention
- Using blackout curtains. Since our circadian rhythms interpret light as a signal for wakefulness, it’s important to reduce your exposure to light.
- Ensuring spinal alignment by choosing pillows with the right support
- Maintaining the right temperature in your sleep space (keep it between 60 to 68 degrees F)
Another option is to paint your bedroom walls blue. The shade is non-stimulating, calm, and tranquil. According to research, it is just as happy as yellow.
2. Keep Electronics Away From the Bedroom
In today’s constantly interconnected world, it can be difficult to put your devices down and just be. But do it anyway because electronics can inhibit melatonin production which could significantly increase sleep onset latency and lead to poor sleep quality.
But don’t stop at just TVs, laptops, and tablets. Devices like mobile phones also emit a tiny amount of electromagnetic radiation (EMF), which can have deleterious effects on human health and well-being. So, stop using your mobile phone at least 30 minutes before sleeping.
3. Avoid Large Meals Before Bedtime
Eating large, mixed meals close to nighttime can affect sleep patterns, slow metabolism, and cause acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn. This habit essentially makes you more susceptible to weight gain, obesity, and cardiometabolic diseases.
To avoid feeling full and bloated while lowering your risk for several health concerns, have your last meal of the day a couple of hours before bedtime.
Even better, don’t drink caffeine in the evenings. A 2013 study showed that caffeine can significantly disrupt your sleep duration even after 6 hours of consuming it! So, don’t use it as an evening pick-me-up.
4. Clock in Some Exercise
According to a systematic review, exercise can have substantial positive effects on sleep efficiency and duration, particularly among those suffering from an illness.
Indulge in whatever exercise you prefer. You can do aerobic exercises, strength training, Pilates, cycling, walking, stretching, or running—anything you enjoy. As long as it’s an activity that releases endorphins, it will help regulate mood and help you fall asleep faster while managing appetite and digestion.
Just be consistent and make it a point to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to enforce good sleep hygiene.
Take Home Message
Sleep plays an important role in weight loss but you shouldn’t depend on it alone for weight regulation. Watch your calorie intake, add protein to your diet, make healthier food choices, minimize your consumption of processed food, and remain hydrated. These healthy practices can help you burn 24% to 30% more calories so you can reach your goal weight faster.