Are you struggling to lose weight? Let’s talk about sleep.
Exercise, eat healthy, and lose weight….right?! Well, what if there is a third variable that most people overlook? Let’s talk about the importance of sleep.
A Rested Brain Makes Better Decisions
Not getting enough sleep can slow down activity in the brain’s frontal lobe. This area of the brain helps with impulse control and decision-making. The result is a similar effect to being intoxicated. With less impulse control, it is more difficult to manage your portions, shop wisely, and make healthy meal choices.
When you are sleep deprived your body is looking to be woken up and revved up. This often leads to binging on carbohydrate-rich comfort foods for quick energy, which will raise your insulin levels. This can also add to an already precarious hormonal balance.
Some of the hormonal key players in regulating your hunger and metabolism Grehlin, Leptin, Cortisol, and Insulin are negatively affected when you are not sleeping well.
Grehlin is the hormone that tells your brain that it is time to eat. Not getting enough sleep elevates Grhelin level’s making you feel hungrier during your day.
Leptin is a hormone that tells your brain it is time to stop eating. Since your body is building up to the perfect weight gaining storm, leptin levels decrease when you are sleep deprived. Sadly, we are still not done….
Cortisol levels increase when you are not sleeping enough. The rise in this stress hormone increases water retention, puffiness, food cravings, as well as increasing insulin levels. The elevation in insulin levels can encourage fat storage. Add that to reduced impulse control and carbohydrate cravings and you have a pretty potent one-two punch.
The Perfect Storm
Think about this scenario. You are in line at your local coffee shop waiting to order your favorite drink to help fight off afternoon fatigue from a sleep debt. There are lots of tempting pastries on display and pictures of extravagant high sugar drinks. This coffee shop has a semi-captive audience of sleep-deprived, carbohydrate-craving, overly hungry, over-consuming, insulin-spiking, low-impulse-control consumers. Hat tip to you coffee shop marketing team. Well played. As a nutritionist though, I would like to help you avoid this set up for the perfect storm of weight gain and fat storage. It really is very simple: try to get an average of seven and a half to nine hours of sleep every night. Add that to regular exercise and a healthy diet and you should start seeing better results.