Can Sleep Help With Your Health & Weight Loss?
Yes, in fact even with the very best diet and fitness routine, if sleep is off, you're wrecked.
1. Sleep Controls Your Diet:
The debate about the best way to achieve a healthy weight always revolves around eating and movement. If you want to look better, the most common suggestion is “eat less and move more.” But it’s not that simple, or even accurate. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it seems impossible to do so. And there might be a good reason: Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to sleep enough. Or maybe, more importantly, you don’t realize that sleep is the key to being rewarded for your diet and fitness efforts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of people are sleep deprived. And when you consider that the statistic for obesity is nearly identical, it’s easy to connect the dots and discover that the connection is not a coincidence.
Not sleeping enough—less than seven hours of sleep per night—can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Overall, those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts!
2. Poor Sleep Changes Your Fat Cells
Think about the last time you had a bad night of sleep. How did you feel when you woke up? Exhausted. Dazed. Confused. It’s not just your brain and body that feel that way—your fat cells do too. When your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess.” The term was coined by University of Chicago researchers who analyzed what happened after just four days of poor sleep—something that commonly happens during a busy week. But it’s just four nights, so how bad could it be? You might be able to cope just fine. After all, coffee does wonders. But the hormones that control your fat cells don’t feel the same way.
Within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes completely disrupted. In fact, the University of Chicago researchers found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30 percent!
Here's why that's bad: When your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.
3. Lack of Rest Makes You Crave Food
Many people believe that hunger is related to willpower and learning to control the call of your stomach, but that's incorrect. Hunger is controlled by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is a hormone that is produced in your fat cells. The less leptin you produce, the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate hunger while also reducing the amount of calories you burn (your metabolism) and increasing the amount fat you store. In other words, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible.
If that’s not enough, the scientists discovered that when you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. This is the stress hormone that is frequently associated with fat gain. Cortisol also activates reward centers in your brain that make you want food. A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol shut down the areas of your brain that leave you feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time—even if you just ate a big meal.
And it gets worse.
Lack of sleep also pushes you in the direction of the foods you know you shouldn’t eat. A study published in Nature Communications found that just one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in your frontal lobe, which controls complex decision-making.
4. Sleep Sabotages Your Workout Time!
Unfortunately the disastrous impact spreads beyond diet and into your workouts. No matter what your fitness goals are, having some muscle on your body is important. Muscle is the enemy of fat—it helps you burn fat and stay young. But sleep (or lack thereof) is the enemy of muscle. Scientists from Brazil found that:
1. Poor sleep means less slow wave sleep, which is when the most growth hormone is released.
2. A poor night of rest increases the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down the production of growth hormone. That means that the already reduced production of growth hormone due to lack of slow wave sleep is further reduced by more cortisol in your system. It’s a vicious cycle.
(We've made it pretty easy. Sleep in, and have your workout come to you!)
5. The Best Health Secret: Prioritize Sleep
The connection between sleep and weight gain is hard to ignore. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who are sleep deprived are a third more likely to gain 33 pounds over the next 16 years than those who receive just seven hours of sleep per night.
While there’s no hard number that applies to all people, a good rule of thumb is to receive between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and to make sure that one poor night of sleep isn’t followed up with a few more. It might not seem like much, but it could make all the difference and mean more than any other health decision you make.
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