It might surprise you but having a good night sleep can really help you lose weight. Therefore, if you focus all your energies on diet and exercise without taking care of your sleep, you might find it hard to get rid of extra pounds around your waist.
Sleep is hardwired into our lives. It is not possible to remain alive without sleeping. Sleep is essential for us to remain healthy. But are sleep and weight loss linked to each other?
According to a study of 60,000 women where their weight loss and sleep were tracked, you are likely to weigh 30 pounds (ca. 14 kg) more over a period of 16 years if you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep on regular basis.(1)
Sleep and weight loss research provides considerable evidence that when you are not getting enough sleep, you will gain weight. We will see in below lines why it happens.
Does lack of sleep cause weight gain
Does sleeping burn fat? The answer is not significant because our bodies do burn fat even at rest. But sleep and weight loss are linked in a different way. It is lack of sleep that makes us gain weight. And when we get enough sleep, we have more chances of weight loss because of different reasons and increased metabolism is one of these.
There is almost agreement in science that not getting enough sleep will cause you gain weight. There are many research studies who have proved this. And when you know that almost 33 percent Americans are not getting enough sleep, it becomes important to address this sleep and weight loss link. Center for Disease Control states that 1 in every 3 American adults are sleep deprived. A Gallup survey results showed that 40 percent of Americans get less than recommended 7 hours of sleep at night.
Why sleep deprivation causes weight gain
Sleep deprivation accumulates fat because of different underlying reasons:
Reduced metabolism: Regular sleep deficit will trigger cortisol levels to rise in the body. Cortisol and sleep have close association. Increased cortisol means your body would like to conserve energy to ensure that you remain energized during the times you are awake. Cortisol is a hormone that is known to increase fat deposit in the body. With increased cortisol levels, your weight loss efforts will suffer if you are trying to lose weight.
In fact research has shown that the metabolic effects of sleep deprivation starts to affect human body within 24 hours of sleep deficit. A study published in 2012 also found that sleep restriction affects metabolic activity in a negative way. (2)
Increased Insulin sensitivity: Another study published in April 2000 found that 24-hour sleep deprivation impacts insulin sensitivity. This again means that your body starts to deposit fat because insulin can not process calories effectively. In fact researchers have found that insulin sensitivity may drop by more than 20 percent when you are sleep deprived for about 1 week (5 hours sleep per night). (3)
High calorie snacks. A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that reduced sleep was accompanied by significant increase (around 200 calories) in high-calorie and high-carb snacks. Unhealthy snacks are definitely one of most common obesity promoting foods. (4) If you are making bad food decisions because of lack of sleep, your weight loss efforts are doomed.
Increased food cravings. This is another reason why sleep and weight loss are linked with each other. One study published in Appetite journal concluded that lack of sleep results in increased cravings for unhealthy foods. Sleep deprived people tend to crave for high fat sweet foods.
Increased food intake. Another research found that people who have not had enough sleep chose 14 percent bigger food portions on the morning after. The participants of the study found themselves hungrier after lack of sleep, and they also shown increased levels of hunger stimulating hormone called gherelin. (5)
Less energy expenditure. With lack of sleep comes energy drain. You will not have energy to get physically active. This means you will burn fewer calories.
Can you lose weight by sleeping
Taking cue from this link between sleep and weight loss, a fad diet with the name Sleeping Beauty Diet has emerged which encourages you to sleep a lot so that you don’t eat enough and hope to lose weight indirectly. People following it may sleep up to 20 hours which will severely restrict calorie intake.
This is a stupid diet and not healthy at all. This surely falls in the category of an eating disorder and is totally dangerous. You will never lose weight on long-term basis by following any extreme diet.
In fact, if you sleep a lot, you are more likely to gain weight rather than losing weight. A Canadian study published in the Sleep Journal found that long duration sleepers (sleeping 9-10 hours) were likely to gain 5-kg more weight than normal sleepers (7-8 hours). (6)
Tips for better sleeping habits
With increasing lure of attractive digital devices like tablet, smartphones, televisions and computers, it has become ever more difficult to catch enough sleep for weight loss. In fact, you should get enough sleep not just because sleep and weight loss are related but also because sleep adds years to your life.
Here are our top 10 tips for better sleep and taking control of your weight loss:
- Decide your bedtime so that it gives you opportunity to get 7-8 hours of night sleep.
- Hit the bed at that time even when you are feeling sleep. If you persist for a few days, your body will eventually fall into this habit and it will start sending you signals that it is tired.
- Think of a bedtime routine. Reserve an hour or two before sleep for winding down. Make a regime that you will follow every night. It might include things like dimming the lights, a warm and relaxing bath, switching off TV, smartphones and all other digital devices.
- Make your sleeping environment comfortable. For example have sufficiently comfortable mattress and pillow. You will sleep better when your body is comfortable in bed. A good night sleep will ensure you lose weight.
- Make your room clutter free. All these things in your room will keep reminding you things to do and you will start thinking in a loop like always.
- If possible, move TV away from your bedroom. TV is number one attraction that steals your sleeping hours.
- Eat well before sleeping time because with a fuller stomach it becomes harder to sleep and it will worsen your efforts to lose weight.
- Do not take any caffeine-based drink at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- If you wake up easily during night, try making use of white noise. This will prevent you from waking up from other little noisy sounds.
- Stick to your sleep schedule that ensures enough sleep every night. Try to follow that schedule for sleeping as well as for waking up. Because if you wake up late, you will sleep late. This cycle will keep repeating. Take control of the schedule.
Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night) is essential for weight loss because lack of sleep and weight loss do not go well with each other. Rather, you gain weight when you are sleep deprived. Try to follow a sleep schedule that provides you enough nighttime sleep and you will be well tuned for weight loss, powered by sleep.