Believe it or not, not getting enough sleep at night can cause you to gain weight!
According to a recent Gallup poll, 40% of Americans only sleep six hours or less, on average per night. According to doctors and scientists, sleep deprivation leads to a host of physical and mental issues, including mood disturbances, job performance issues and health problems. Unfortunately, our shrinking sleep habits are becoming a societal “norm” and are just widely accepted as a part of our busy lives.
While the amount of sleep a person needs varies from person to person, the average is between seven and eight hours per night. Teens and young children need closer to nine hours of sleep.
You can lose weight while you’re sleeping and we’ll get to how. But first, a little science to explain what happens when you don’t get enough sleep.
Researchers have several theories on why lack of sleep is associate with excess weight.
- Exaggerated Hunger: Hormones that control hunger may actually be altered when we don’t get enough sleep.
- More Time to Eat: The longer you’re awake, the more time you have to eat.
- Less Healthy Eating Habits: People who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more junk food, eat irregularly, and snack more than people that get enough sleep do.
Sleep Deprivation and Nighttime Eating
A sleepy brain makes poor decisions, and different parts of the brain go into overdrive, according to Web MD. For example, when you’re overly tired, your brain’s “pleasure center” takes over, causing you to crave junk foods and larger portions of them. The brain especially likes to tell you to eat more carbs when you’re sleepy.
Studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have made a correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain. In one study, participants were more likely to snack—especially on high carbohydrate snacks—when they were sleep deprived. Another study found that sleep deprived individuals tend to eat larger portions of food.
So what’s making people so hungry when they should be sleeping? Two hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin are the culprits.
Specialized cells that line the stomach and pancreas contain a hormone called Ghrelin, which is responsible for stimulating hunger. Ghrelin increases before meals and decreases after meals. Leptin tells the body that it’s full. Researchers have found that Leptin levels decrease when we don’t get enough sleep, so the brain never “switches off” and you just keep eating.
How Sleeping Can Help You Lose Weight
We left the good bits for last! Getting in a solid seven to eight hours of sleep can help you lose weight in several ways.
It helps you cut down on late-night snacking. Late night snacking can cause you to gain as many as two pounds per week.
You burn more calories. While you’re sleeping, your body is performing vital functions such as cellular repair, digesting your dinner, pumping blood, and many other necessary functions Thus, a 150 pound person will burn about 95 calories per hour in their sleep. When you’re in full-on, deep REM sleep (rapid eye movement), you’re burning even more calories, since the brain is in the process of repair and monitoring bodily functions. It’s as if your brain has gone to the gym when you are in deep sleep mode.
There’s growth hormone production. Your pituitary gland is responsible for growth hormone production, and more of it is secreted when you’re sleeping than while you’re awake. Growth hormone has many functions and two them are muscle building and metabolism regulation. Get more sleep, produce more growth hormone. Produce more growth hormone, increase your metabolism and lose weight faster and easier.
How to Get More Sleep
Waking up to the fact that you’re probably not getting enough sleep? It can be tricky, but you can do a few things to help.
- Shut everything down an hour before you hit the sack. Turn everything off (yes, including the computer), make yourself a soothing cup of chamomile tea or warm milk, and curl up with a good book.
- Create a schedule. Go to sleep and wake the same time, every day, including the weekends.
- Avoid alcohol at least one hour before bedtime, and stop coffee, chocolate, soda and tea sooner than that (caffeine stays in your system for about sex hours). Stay away from heavy dinners and especially spicy ones, as too much spice before bed can give your heartburn.
- Turn the lights down low several hours before bed. Low lighting will kickstart your sleep hormone, melatonin.
Now, think about your habits and sleep on it.
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- "Why Sleep Is Key for Weight Loss."/ Fitness / Weight Loss. FitDay.com, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.