Does sleep help you lose weight?

Does sleep help you lose weight?

Does sleep help you lose weight?
Understanding the connection between sleep and weight loss.

If you have ever struggled to lose weight one commonly overlooked factor is the number of hours of sleep you get a night.  I can't tell you the number of times I have been asked, does sleep help you lose weight?  Trust me, I get it.  As a busy mom and entrepreneur, it often seems there are not enough hours in the day. With so many important things pulling you in different directions we often put ourselves last. Which means more times than we care to admit, we are skimping on sleep. The facts can be tough to swallow though.   Sleep, it turns out, it just as important as your nutrition and your exercise when it comes to losing weight.  

Sad to say, but about 30% of the adults in the US are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night according to the Center for Disease Control.

Logically, we know that the more tired we are, the lower our will power will be.  The times when I am short on sleep, it is way more difficult to turn down a morning donut or to make it to the gym.  I remember when my son was an infant.  He struggled to sleep through the night which meant, of course that mom was up all night with him.  Each time that happened, the next day I found my motivation low and I ended up eating sugary treats and longing for caffeine to help me push through.

While missing sleep from time to time is not really a problem, the trouble is that many of us are not sleeping enough on a regular basis.  If you have ever wondered, does sleep help you lose weight, your instincts are correct.  From an expanding waist line to a drop in your overall motivation, quality sleep effects it all.  Let's dive into the connection between sleep and weight loss.

Does sleep help you lose weight? How much sleep does a woman need?

How much sleep you need to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight really depends on how old you are and can be different for each person.  Most experts agree though that adults need at least seven or more hours of sleep each night.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) gives us some solid guidelines when it comes to the amount of sleep we need.

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep
  • School-aged children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours of sleep
  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
  • Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
  • Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
  • Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours of sleep

Gender can have an impact on sleep as well.  Women tend to lose sleep more often than men though.  Problems that can disrupt women’s sleep include depression, major life events (such as divorce), pregnancy, hormonal changes related to menopause, sleep disorders — including obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome — as well as medical problems like arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia.

Metabolism and Sleep - Why Your Weight Loss Attempts Are Sabotaged By Lack Of Sleep.

In our attempts to answer the question, does sleep help you lose weight, it is important to understand what happens to your body on a physiological level when you are sleep deprived.

Sleep serves to reenergize the body's cells, clear waste from the brain, and support learning and memory. It even plays vital roles in regulating mood, appetite and libido.

Sleeping is an integral part of our life, and as research shows, it is incredibly complex. The brain generates two distinct types of sleep—slow-wave sleep (SWS), known as deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM), also called dreaming sleep. Most of the sleeping we do is of the SWS variety, characterized by large, slow brain waves, relaxed muscles and slow, deep breathing, which may help the brain and body to recuperate after a long day.  When you don't get enough sleep the frontal cortex of your brain is dulled, your reward center is enhanced and you make poor decisions about health and eating in particular.

Then we have hormones.  Several  hormones that are important in weight maintenance and weight loss are impacted by the amount of sleep you get.  First, too little sleep triggers a cortisol spike. This stress hormone signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours and causes you to store fat.

Does sleep help you lose weight?

Second, sleep deprivation leads to a decrease in insulin sensitivity.  Sleep deprivation makes you “metabolically groggy".  Within just 4 days of insufficient sleep, your body’s ability to process insulin-- a hormone needed to change sugar, starches, and other food into energy -- goes awry. Insulin sensitivity, the researchers found, dropped by more than 30%.

Here’s why that’s bad: When your body doesn't respond properly to insulin, your body has trouble processing fats from your bloodstream, so it ends up storing them as fat.

Additionally, not getting enough sleep reeks havoc on the production of leptin and ghrelin in the body.  One study that I find particularly interesting was published by the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI).  It comes down to the facts that sleep deprivation causes your body to store fat more readily and makes you feel hungrier.  Participants short on sleep had reduced leptin (which helps in regulating fat storage in the body) and elevated ghrelin (a hormone that triggers the feeling of hunger). According to the study, "These differences in leptin and ghrelin are likely to increase appetite, possibly explaining the increased BMI observed with short sleep duration. In Western societies, where chronic sleep restriction is common and food is widely available, changes in appetite regulatory hormones with sleep curtailment may contribute to obesity."

Researchers found that when dieters cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, the amount of weight they lost from fat dropped by 55%, even though their calories stayed equal. They felt hungrier and less satisfied after meals, and their energy was zapped.

Bottomline: If you are chronically sleep deprived, you’re more apt to hang on to fat.  So it’s not so much that if you sleep, you’ll lose weight, but that too little sleep hampers your metabolism and contributes to weight gain.

Does sleep help you lose weight?

Sleep Deprivation and Behavior - Why You Eat More When You Are Tired.

It is no secret that when you are tired you make poor food choices and workout less.  Studies which examined the effects of sleep deprivation on athletes determined that time to exhaustion was faster and that perceived exertion rates were higher among those that had missed sleep.  But the biggest killer when we are talking about weight loss is the choices you make when you are sleep deprived.  We have all been there.  Especially when you are talking about food, we simply do not have as much willpower to make great food choices when we lack sleep.  When we are answering the question, does sleep help you lose weight, it is clear that a combination of hormones, brain function and behavior all lead to the answer.  Yes.  Sleep definitely effects your weight loss efforts.

Tips for Sleeping Better and Losing Weight

Does sleep help you lose weight

Does sleep help you lose weight?

Luckily, there are things we can do to help us get a better nights sleep and achieve our weight loss goals at the same time.  Here are my top tips for a better nights sleep:

  1. Enact a 1 hour before bed no screen rule.  The light emitted from devices like TV, laptops and even your phone can impact your sleep so take one hour prior to bed off of all devices.
  2. Make your bedroom a sanctuary saved for the 2 S's... sleep and sex.  Relaxing and being close with your husband without distractions will help you sleep better.
  3. Make a routine out of bedtime. I love doing a little yoga, then having a warm bath with essential oils and finally reading a bit from my bible before bed.  Whatever you choose to do, make it activities that will help center you and relax your body and mind.
  4. Make a point of keeping your sleep schedule about the same all week.  Try not to stay up too late or get up super late on weekends.  The more consistent you are, the better.
  5. Avoid eating within 2 hours of bedtime.  While a small, protein packed snack should not be a problem, a full meal kicks your digestive system into action and makes it hard to fall asleep.  Obviously you want to avoid caffeine packed drinks and foods as well.
  6. Keep your room as dark as possible.  Black out shades make a big difference!  Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone melatonin, while light suppresses it.

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