Health Challenge Week 4: Why Sleep is Important for Weight Loss

We’ve all heard it before, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and move more. While these are certainly strategies that you should incorporate into your weight loss regimen, your results will go further if you incorporate one more important aspect. Sleep. Learn why sleep is important for weight loss and strategies to improve your rest.

Why Sleep is Important for Weight Loss

Sleep is seen by many fitness coaches and professional athletes as a reward for a healthy diet and exercise 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. In the study conducted by Annals of Internal Medicine, dieters who slept more lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived (less than 7 hours of sleep a  night). “When participant’s bodies received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However, when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was cut in half—even though they were on the same diet. What’s more, they felt significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked the energy to exercise. Overall, those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts.”
The term metabolic grogginess is something not everyone’s heard of, but everyone has definitely experienced! When we get busy with our jobs, families, fitness, and other obligations, we NEED sleep. Getting less than optimal sleep is an easy trap to fall into and it can wreak havoc on weight loss. Metabolic grogginess happens when we are over-tired and actually slows down our metabolic rate, which determines how quickly (or slowly) our bodies burn calories. While coffee may sustain you for a few days, its effects won’t last forever. The hormones that control our fat cells become disrupted when we don’t get adequate sleep. Insulin is the master storage hormone in our bodies. When it’s firing on all cylinders, it helps fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from the bloodstream which prevents the body from instead storing them. Insulin resistance happens when fatty acids and lipids circulate in your bloodstream and are then deposited in really bad places (no, not your thighs) like your liver. This is how diabetes starts.

How Sleep Controls Hunger

While willpower can move mountains, it can’t stop you from completely ignoring hunger. Hormones leptin and ghrelin have a much bigger impact on hunger pangs. Controlling these two hormones will help you feel fuller longer and will help your metabolism function at a more rapid pace. So how do you control these hormones? Get enough sleep.  Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin. When we don’t get enough sleep two things happen that put a serious damper on weight loss: the reward centers in the brain are lit up, making us crave crappy food (think french fries and soda), and brain fog that hinders our ability to make good decisions i.e. salad vs cheeseburger.

More Sleep = More #Gains

Both sleep and exercise will give you the energy boost you need to get through your busy day. If you’re not sleeping and still exercising, you might not be seeing the results you could from your gym routine. Sleep affects muscle and fat. Protein synthesis is a process that occurs when you build muscle and lack of sleep decreases protein synthesis. Lack of sleep will also make it more difficult to recover from your workout (can you say vicious cycle?).

How to Sleep Better to Lose More Weight

  • Minimize distractions like the phone or TV
  • Turn off the lights (all of them)
  • Skip your late night snack
  • Stick to your bedtime routine
  • Make a sleep schedule
  • Get comfortable

The connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain is hard to ignore. This is why sleep is important for weight loss! While a couple of extra hours of sleep may seem hard to achieve, it could possibly be one of the best decisions you make for your overall health. If you’re short on willpower and have limited time to exercise, learning how to get enough sleep may be your best-kept secret!