New Year’s weight loss goals can be difficult to achieve. Many people focus primarily on exercise and diet but leave out a critical element of weight loss, sleep. Unfortunately, a great number of people don’t get enough of it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average American only gets 6.9 hours of sleep per night, which is notably lower than the recommended 8 to 9 hours. Additionally, roughly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. experience insomnia during their life. This happens more commonly in women than men and occurs more often as one ages.
The body requires the restorative aspects of sleep to gain energy and repair itself. Without proper sleep the body can’t keep itself healthy and working efficiently. Poor sleep quality, duration, or interrupted sleep can lead to increased tension, irritability, and reduced cognitive function. In a study presented at the Endocrine Society’s national meeting it was stated that losing out even 30 minutes of sleep per night can increase one’s risk of obesity and diabetes. This may be due to weight loss inhibiting factors such as hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, and increased cortisol that can occur when one does not get adequate sleep.
The body is dependent on hormones to regulate a variety of important bodily functions. Improper allocation or production of hormones can lead to anxiety, stress, low energy, and many other inhibitive mental and physical states. Studies have shown that getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night leads to various hormone imbalances.
Regularly missing sleep reduces one’s ability to produce thyroid hormones. This can cause TSH levels to elevate and inhibit conversion of inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active form T3. This can lead to hypothyroidism making it very difficult to lose weight.
Poor sleep can also reduce glucagon levels, a hormone that aids in the release of fat from one’s cells. This can further hinder weight loss by making the body more likely to hold on to excess fat.
Sleep is critical for younger people as a lack of it negatively affects the production of growth hormone. Without enough sleep, one’s growth may be altered. However, this hormone doesn’t impact just those who are growing. Low growth hormone levels also negatively affect weight loss and metabolism.
Depriving the body of sleep leads to an increase of ghrelin. This hormone informs the body that it wants food and increases appetite. Additionally, ghrelin reduces leptin levels, which is a hormone that tells the body it’s full or satiated. Both increased appetite and reduced leptin can lead one to frequently overeat and gain weight.
The hormone insulin is critical for the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and sugars. Proper insulin function keeps one’s blood sugar level within proper ranges. Research was conducted that showed those who got 4 hours of sleep or fewer per night experienced insulin resistance. Those taking part in the study were shown to have a 25% decrease in insulin sensitivity. Improper utilization and reduced sensitivity to insulin can severely inhibit weight loss, promote weight gain and metabolic issues, and ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes.
Stress is closely related to the aptly titled stress hormone, cortisol. Excessive levels of cortisol can lead one to experience chronic stress and increased appetite. This may cause one to seek relief by eating high-fat and high-carb foods, which are needed for production of serotonin. Unfortunately, if this stress is brought on by inadequate sleep one is less equipped to metabolize sugary foods, as noted above. Additionally, a study was done that showed cortisol levels increased by up to 21% in those that did not get enough sleep.
Increased cortisol levels may also lead one’s belly fat cells to be more receptive, leading to greater amounts of fat in the belly area. Increased amounts of belly fat can lead to reduced sleep quality, creating a cycle of poor sleep and weight gain. Interestingly, chronic stress brought on by excess adrenal hormone expenditure, like cortisol, can lead to fatigue. Not getting enough sleep deprives the body of its energy restoring function, but also actively causes one to be more tired.
One of the easiest and best ways to support one’s weight loss goals this year is by getting adequate sleep. Sleep quality and consistency not only aids weight loss but research has shown that it improves memory, reduces inflammation, deters depression and anxiety, promotes longevity, and assists in attentiveness. By implementing the following sleep quality tips one can improve their likelihood of shedding the pounds and benefit their overall health.
Avoid Stimulation Before Bed:
Many are in the habit of watching TV or a movie right before or as they are going to sleep. Unfortunately, this can make it significantly more difficult to fall and stay asleep. By stimulating the brain with engaging entertainment, the brain stays active and is unable to rest. It takes time to calm down after such intense stimulation. This can take away precious minutes or hours from one’s restorative sleep. Alternatively, try reading a calming book that relaxes the brain and keeps it from becoming too focused or alert.
Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule:
Regularly waking up at the same time every day helps the body adjust to a restorative rhythm. Greater consistency of sleep, about 8 hours per night, in the same time frame can help the body recognize when it’s time to relax and restore itself. The American Journal of Health Promotion printed a study that found those with regular sleep schedules have a lower body fat percentage than those who have irregular sleep habits. Those who had less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night were recognized as having greater body fat levels. Most notably, those who went to bed and woke up consistently at the same time were closely associated with reduced body fat. By keeping oneself on a regular sleep schedule and making sleep a priority, one may experience recognizable weight loss benefits.
Take a Load Off and Get Some Sleep
It seems that more and more people are not setting sleep as a priority or a necessity to maintain good health. This is particularly unfortunate for those who are trying to lose weight. If you plan on achieving a weight loss challenge this year, make sure you’re getting adequate and quality sleep. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, sleeping may be one of the best ways of reaching one’s weight loss goals and achieving greater quality of life.