Updated: May 26
Something we all wish we had more of, yet something we all tend to not get enough of, either sacrificing sleep through staying up late scrolling on our phones or getting up extra early for that early gym session- no matter what your reasons are, you are not alone with 55% of Australian’s reporting not getting enough sleep each night.
The thing with reduced sleep is, it’s more than just feeling tired or yawning all day- the effects it has on your body as a whole is more than you would think. Sleep is important for your immune system, heart health, mood, productivity and focus, exercise performance and believe it or not weight loss.
Many studies have suggested that restricted sleep patterns can lead to weight gain, metabolic disorders and increase the risk of obesity. In fact, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to changes in metabolism, in particular glucose metabolism – it can lead to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance- both precursors to diabetes.
There is a lot of evidence suggesting that following an ideal sleep pattern of 7-9 hours each night can actually decrease these risks and enhance weight loss.
There are numerous studies examining the effects of restricted sleep patterns on body weight and weight loss- one study found sleeping 5.5 hours per night over a two-week period whilst maintaining a calorie deficit resulted in less fat loss compared to those who slept 8.5 hours each night.
Another study found that just one hour of sleep deprivation on 5 nights per week led to decreased fat mass loss in individuals in a calorie deficit. They also noted that sleep deprivation can adversely affect body composition and the concept of “catch up” sleep won’t completely reverse it.
So why is not getting enough sleep a big deal for weight loss?
Well research has shown that sleeping less than 7-9 hours each can increase body fat and can also influence how easily you lose weight whilst eating healthy and exercising regularly. So, if you are stuck in a plateau or are just not seeing results ask your self are you getting enough sleep each night? Are you feeling rested in the mornings when you wake up? And if not keep reading I’ll explain exactly why and leave you with some tips to help you improve your sleep.
How sleep can prevent weight gain and lead to weight loss:
We all know the success to weight loss is through diet and exercise, however sleep- an area of our lives we often neglect plays just as much of an important role. Sleep by itself isn’t going to result in weight loss- if only it was that easy, but it does play a crucial role in both weight loss and weight maintenance through altering your metabolism and appetite.
We often associate our appetite with our stomach grumbling and letting us know we are hungry however it is actually controlled by hormones- fancy chemical messengers allowing our cells to talk to one another- these hormones are called grehlin and leptin. Our sleep or lack of sleep influences how these two hormones work to regulate your appetite, and subsequently your food choices.
Grehlin is an appetite stimulating hormone often referred to as the hunger hormone due to its role in promoting the feeling of hunger. On the contrary, leptin is the hormone that decreases appetite and lets our mind and body know we are full. Our bodies naturally increase and decrease these hormones signalling to our body that we are hungry or full throughout the day.
So how does sleep play a role in all of this? Well lack of sleep can affect how well these hormones are regulated throughout the body. When experiencing less sleep your body will increase the production of grehlin (hunger hormone) and decrease the production of leptin (fullness hormone) and together they are the perfect (or not so perfect) recipe for late night snacking, junk food cravings and an overall increase in calorie consumption.
Studies have found that people who get less sleep tend to eat more calories in general and choose foods high in carbohydrates and simple sugars. When you are over tired your brain’s reward centres are longing for something that feels good- your sleep deprived brain is begging for those comfort foods such as chocolate, chips, or cake and you are simply too tired to fight off those cravings.
Sleep, physical activity, and exercise
The mechanisms relating to sleep and physical activity is still an area requiring more research, but we do know that exercise is key to maintaining weight loss and is important for our overall health.
Physical activity and exercise is not only important for your physical health but your mental health too- and we have all had those days where we have been “too tired” to go to the gym or go for a walk- there are a number of reasons why you may be feeling too tired or too fatigued to get moving but losing sleep is a big one. When we don’t get enough sleep, we feel as though we have less energy to exercise, we don’t get the most out of our workouts, we feel discouraged, and we end up skipping the gym when we are tired- and the cycle continues.
Sleep and exercise go hand in hand, getting enough sleep will encourage exercise, and in turn regular exercise can improve quality of sleep. Studies have found that taking a walk during the day or engaging in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can lead to improvements in night-time sleep.
How to get a good night’s sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done, life is so hectic and by the time you have achieved everything for the day you just want that time to yourself to relax and enjoy the finer things in life like reality TV or scrolling through your phone endlessly for hours. I am not saying those are bad things, it’s completely understandable to want to prioritize activities that provide you the most joy at the end of each day however, studies have demonstrated the light from your phone can reduce the production of another hormone melatonin- which plays a significant role in your circadian rhythm- aka your sleep cycle. It is recommended to turn off your phone, TV, or tablets off at least one hour before bed and instead engage in activities such as reading a book, having a warm bath, meditation or yoga, journaling, having a cup of tea, doing something creative like colouring or cross stitch to help you wind down before you go to sleep.
Other tips for better sleep when you are trying to lose weight include:
· Stick to a sleep schedule: It is important to try go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day- studies have found that large variations in your sleep schedule can alter your metabolism and influence insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels.
· Set yourself up with a nice bedtime routine: Prepare yourself around 1.5 hours before bed and follow a similar routine each day to help your mind and body switch from being wide awake to failing asleep. Things like taking a warm bath, having a cup or tea or reading a book before bed can get your brain ready for sleep
· Do something to reduce stress before bed: chronic stress can contribute to poor sleep so it is important to do something for you to help you relax before going to sleep. Chronic stress has also been associated with weight gain due to emotional eating, and using food to cope with negative emotions.
· Go to sleep early: studies have found late bed times are associated with weight gain due to consumption of excess calories during the late night hours. Going to bed early also gives you a higher chance of getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep- and who knows, you might enjoy waking up early to go for a walk or head to the gym whilst feeling rested.
Try to avoid eating big meals late in the evening: Give your body time to digest your food before going to sleep
Avoid caffeine: Stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, and soft drink can keep you wide awake through the later hours of the night. Try to limit consumption to earlier in the day, and switch to a de-caff or non caffeinated drinks in the afternoon/evening.
Exercise: As I mentioned before physical activity and exercise can help you fall asleep more easily at night. Scheduling regular exercise can help to improve your sleep. Physical activity during the day is good, but more regular, moderate exercise a few days a week will have more of a positive sleepy effect. Try to avoid working out too close to bedtime as you need to give your body some time to wind down and relax before bed.
Get some light: Try exercising outdoors, exposure to natural light during the day can help to keep your body in sync with its natural sleep rhythms.
Sleep is part of our self-care steps. Often we can sacrifice sleep to do that extra email; client document; housework; or chore.
Self-care is not a luxury, it’s a critical ingredient to function well. No guilt allowed.
In my Restore Program; I work with you to create habits; like sleep routine. I am your personal coach to change
Find out more at: Restore Program | Nicole Barber Dietet
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