Do you ever feel like you are constantly losing your battle with the bulge? Did you know that sensible diets and invigorating exercises are not enough? Counting carbs can be useful for some people – but so is counting sleep. If you have tried to get control of your weight without considering your sleep patterns, then you may be bypassing a key component. But in order to get to the root of the problem, let’s take a step back and determine how much sleep you are getting – and how much you need.
Are you sleep deprived?
According to the US-based National Sleep Foundation (NSF), the recommended amount of sleep for adults aged 26-64 sits between seven to nine hours per night – a little bit more for young adults, and slightly less for seniors. If you continually fall below any of these averages, you could be in for some serious long-term weight issues, not to mention countless other physical, neurological, and cognitive challenges. In fact, even one single night of missed or insufficient sleep has been found to slow down one’s metabolism the next day, reducing energy expenditure for simple tasks such as digestion and breathing by up to 20 percent – a significant amount.
We live in a world of information, entertainment and engagement – all of which can be key stressors that either physically or mentally hamper our abilities to fall, and stay, asleep. Poor diets, overtime work hours, and an unhealthy commitment to our electronic devices are all some of the reasons why you may be finding it hard to get an adequate amount of shut-eye.
Sleep deprivation and weight gain: the connection
There have been countless studies performed on the relationship between poor sleep and weight gain and the results consistently prove that the two are linked. How? Consider some of these factors:
A lack of sleep slows metabolism…
Metabolism is the complex process by which your body burns calories into energy. An insufficient amount of sleep interferes with this process, meaning you are no longer burning calories, but storing them. Sleep deprivation can also trigger the body into producing an influx of insulin and cortisol -increased amounts of which tell your brain to also store energy as fat, usually around the waistline.
…and increases appetite
Your metabolism isn’t the only victim. Insufficient sleep can lead to drastic changes in hormone levels – specifically ones that regulate hunger (ghrelin), and those which promote that feeling of fullness (leptin). When tired, ghrelin levels rise and leptin levels drop.
Mood versus food
Junk food is bad for you. We all know this. Yet it doesn’t stop most of us from seeking it out. If you have ever felt compelled to reach for a donut when healthy options are readily available, just know that that compulsion is natural – and scientific. Sleep deprivation is linked to fluctuating levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which regulates both mood and appetite. Increased amounts of cortisol, which triggers a need for serotonin (or, a need to be satisfied), can be one of the reasons why you crave unhealthy, fatty foods when you are tired and your mood is low. We instinctively know that a donut is going to taste better than a carrot – and the cycle begins.
Take the steps
Now that you know the why let’s delve into how you can resolve your sleep issues and avoid contributing to weight gain:
- Maintain a steadfast sleep schedule – try to do more or less the same things before you go to bed every night so that your body understands which series of events and activities leads to sleep. And, of course, learn to physically “go to bed” and wake up at the same time, every day (including weekends)
- No stimulants in bed – ditch the books, magazines and absolutely no TV. When you engage in these activities in bed, your mind learns to associate bed with being alert.
- And no stimulants before bed – cigarettes, alcohol, even food can be key triggers for wakefulness. If you must consume any of the above at night, ensure you are finished at least an hour before bed.
- No evening coffee – nearly everybody requires caffeine to start their day. Well, after 2 pm, cut it out! As harmless as you think that soda may be with lunch, or that after-dinner cappuccino, the effects will keep you wide awake
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep – make sure lights (including devices and computers) are off, window coverings are closed, the temperature is comfortable and curious pets are kept out
- Stay active – exercise promotes continuous sleep, but some of us might be working out to the detriment of our sleep schedule. Avoid excessive physical activity before bedtime as the resulting endorphins, while pleasing, can interfere with your ability to naturally fall asleep
Ultimately, the battle of the bulge can be won. All you need is the right attitude, a good healthy food, a good amount of exercise – and, as you now know, a good night’s sleep. So get proactive about your health and log off, drift off and wake up brand new.
If you would like some help getting back into shape, book in for an appointment with us today!