In every guide for losing weight or maintaining a fit lifestyle, there’s always a note about getting more sleep or adhering to healthy sleeping patterns. But, what’s the science behind this? How does sleeping more or sleeping better help our bodies, especially when we want to lose weight?
Sleep can be just as important as your diet and exercise. In fact, a lack of sleep could just be what’s stopping you from reaching your fitness goals despite your hours at the gym and constant clean eating. When we think of weight loss, we usually think of cutting back on calories and being more physically active. The key, however, is balance, especially if you ascribe to a fast-paced and stressful lifestyle. Balance includes rest and regeneration, and there’s no better way to achieve that than through sleep.
Getting enough sleep is so crucial to one’s health that, according to one report, sleep deprivation kills 3,000 Australians each year. This number of deaths were all linked to sleep deprivation. The study also concluded that 9.8 percent of Australian adults experience some form of inadequate sleep. Aside from affecting our energy levels, sleep also influences our food cravings, calorie intake, fat cells, metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
In terms of research, weight loss and sleep have been proven to be linked. One study observed that when dieters are put on varied sleeping schedules, they also lose a varied amount of weight. Getting enough sleep made them lose fat, but less hours for sleep resulted in half that amount of fat loss. The participants also felt more hungry and lacked energy to exercise when they cut back on sleep.
An important factor in weight loss is our appetite and sleep or lack of can affect our calorie intake. One study with participants on four hours of sleep eat 559 more calories than those who got eight hours of sleep. Other studies have also observed that these extra calories are consumed as post-dinner or late-night snacks, which can make falling asleep more difficult and affect digestion.
If you have a hard time battling cravings, ask yourself if you’re getting enough sleep. Leptin is a hormone that is crucial in resisting tempting foods and making healthy choices. When the body produces less leptin, the more the stomach feels empty. Our cravings are also affected by the hormone ghrelin, the more of which increases appetite and the amount of fat the body stores. Sleeping less than six hours has been found to decrease leptin and increase ghrelin. Another vital hormone is cortisol or the stress hormone. The more stressed we are, the more cortisol is produced and this can persuade us to reach for sugary junk food as well as gain more fat.
Metabolism is also a significant factor as we still burn calories when we’re at rest. Our resting metabolic rate or RMR could be lowered due to sleep deprivation. According to one research, keeping awake for 24 hours decreased RMR by 5 percent compared to a regular amount of rest. Lack of sleep can also result in a reduction in muscle mass which leads to a reduction in metabolic rate which can lead to storing additional energy as fat.