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How Poor Sleep Can Cause Weight Gain

Sleep and weight loss

Sleep is one of the body’s most important processes. Although most people recognize that sleep is essential for maintaining important areas of wellness, many are not aware that a lack of sleep may contribute to weight gain and discourage weight loss.

Read on to learn about the importance of quality sleep, how sleep affects weight retention, and effective ways to improving sleep quality.

The Importance of Sleep

Research shows that poor sleep quality is associated with an array of dysfunction including a decline in memory, cognitive ability, and cardiovascular health. Furthermore, multiple studies have found an association between poor sleep quality, greater body mass index (BMI), and increased weight retention. Studies consistently show that those who regularly get less than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to have weight-related issues. In fact, one study found that adults who do not get adequate sleep are 55 percent more likely to be obese. 

Learn more about the importance of quality sleep here.

Sleep Quality and Weight Retention

There are multiple ways in which poor sleep quality may contribute to poor weight regulation. 

One of the main ways in which sleep affects weight is through the disruption of hormones. For example, leptin is a key hormone charged with regulating fat storage and appetite. Poor sleep quality can cause an imbalance in leptin resulting in increased sensations of hunger and greater fat retention. One study found that individuals who did not get adequate sleep had nearly 16 percent less leptin than those who got an appropriate amount of sleep. Furthermore, it has been shown that sleep deficiency may increase the risk of leptin resistance. Leptin resistance causes the body to become less responsive to the regulatory signals of leptin thereby encouraging weight gain.

Poor sleep quality may also promote the development of insulin resistance. Insulin is responsible for the transference of sugar from the bloodstream into cells. Resistance to insulin can make it so more insulin is required to complete this task. In most cases of insulin resistance, the body attempts to resolve the issue by simply producing more of the regulatory hormone. However, increased insulin may be accompanied by various side effects including greater sensations of hunger and increased fat retention.

Sleep quality also impacts resting metabolic rate or RMR which determines the number of calories that the body burns while at rest. The higher the RMR the more calories burned at rest thereby making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Some studies show that sleep deprivation can have a notable impact on RMR. In a study composed of 15 men who stayed awake for a 24-hour period, it was found that their RMR decreased by 5 percent and then declined an additional 15 percent after eating.

These studies show that sleep clearly influences the body’s ability to regulate weight. Fortunately, it is possible to improve sleep quality and by extension weight management through employing various sleep-supporting practices.

How to Improve Your Sleep and Lose Weight

If you have a hard time getting to sleep, regularly toss and turn, or experience frequent sleep interruptions during the night, you are not alone. One study found that up to 30% of adults in the US get less than six hours of sleep on a regular basis. Sadly, this means that many are not getting the quality sleep they need to maintain healthy bodily function. You can help ensure that you get the quality sleep needed to maintain a healthy weight by employing the sleep-supporting practices discussed below.

Establish and Follow an Appropriate Sleep Schedule

Sleep quality can be improved dramatically by establishing and sticking to a healthy sleep schedule. Experts recommend getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, these numbers may be higher or lower depending on the individual. Once you have set aside the appropriate time in your schedule for sleep be sure to follow through with it and make it a priority.

Exercise Regularly

Not only is physical activity important for staying in shape, it also greatly benefits sleep quality. Experts agree that engaging in at least 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise on a daily basis supports various aspects of sleep. However, exercise should be avoided just prior to bed as energizing hormones released during exercise can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Improve Your Sleeping Environment

The environment in which we sleep has a great deal of influence on sleep quality. For example, light, noise, temperature, and general comfort all play a role in the quality of sleep. Optimizing these areas by limiting the amount of light and noise in a space, maintaining a slightly cool temperature, and investing in a quality mattress can notably improve sleep quality.

Eliminate Stress

Mental or physical stressors can impede sleep quality by encouraging wakefulness, sleep disruptions, and making it difficult to fall asleep. Stress also promotes the release of cortisol, which can disrupt sleep and increase appetite. Those suffering from chronic or acute stress may benefit greatly from incorporating relaxing activities such as meditation into their evening ritual.

Get more stress-reducing tips here.

Stay Away from Stimulants Before Sleeping

Many individuals unintentionally sabotage their sleep by watching TV, using their phone, or engaging in other stimulating activities just before or while already in bed. Ideally, all screens and visually engaging electronics are avoided prior to bedtime. If you want to wind down with some form of media before bed, try reading or listening to an audiobook.

Improving Sleep Quality to Promote Better Weight Regulation

Sleep influences many different elements of health including weight regulation. A decline in sleep quality can greatly promote weight gain and fat retention by disrupting the activity of hormones such as leptin and insulin, reducing BMI, and creating a cycle of declining sleep quality. Fortunately, it is possible to alleviate sleep issues by employing multiple lifestyle changes. If you are struggling to lose weight, consider making sleep a priority and employing some of the healthy sleep habits discussed above.


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How Poor Sleep Can Cause Weight Gain was last modified: February 4th, 2020 by Holtorf Medical Group

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