Sleep and weight loss – what you need to know
Sleep matters. Busy people ignore the reality, but without enough sleep, you create an uphill battle for yourself in more ways than you may suspect. Sleep and weight are intimately related. If you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you are setting yourself up to be hungrier, eat more, weigh more, and have a harder time losing weight. And it’s not all in your head.
The facts are concerning. Many women – especially busy high-achievers – are chronically sleep deprived. Yet the research is very clear. We know that if you are consistently surviving on too little sleep (that’s less than seven and a half hours of good sleep a night), you are not only shortchanging yourself in terms of your ability to function and focus and think creatively, you are also sabotaging any attempts to take control of healthy eating and your weight.
Sleep deprivation causes physiological changes which affect your feelings of hunger. Two hormones, gherlin and leptin, play a major role with hunger levels, appetite, metabolism, calorie burning, and energy storage. They are majorly disrupted when you are not sleeping enough. Sleep deprivation has also been found to increase levels of stress hormones and resistance to insulin, both of which contribute to weight gain.
That feeling that you are constantly hungry and that you could eat all day when you haven’t slept the night before? That’s not in your head. It’s a physical hunger caused by disrupted hormone levels that is incredibly difficult to resist.
[Tweet “Busy women who blame their overeating on a lack of self-control are often simply not getting enough sleep. “]
Here’s another fun fact. If you don’t get enough sleep (again, seven and a half hours is the recommended standard), you are not only going to be hungrier, you are likely to crave high carbohydrate foods over a healthy balanced diet.
The effects of insufficient sleep shouldn’t be ignored either. Long term research shows that women who are chronically sleep deprived weighed more than women who slept enough even when the study controlled for how many calories the women ate.
Too many busy women have the rules reversed. A key piece of the overeating hamster wheel is believing that you need to get everything done before you allow yourself to go to sleep.
The truth is if you take care of your rest, if you prioritize getting enough sleep, you’re not only going to get more done and show up more fully in your life, you’re going to be much more able to make the kind of choices that you want to make with your eating and your weight.
Take advantage of the relationship between sleep and weight.
Do you need to upgrade your sleep habits? It can be done.
The following sleep tips are offered via The National Sleep Foundation:
- Maintain the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
- If you have trouble sleeping and/or falling asleep at bedtime, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
- Exercise daily. Even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and free from noise that can disturb your sleep. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
- Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive.
- Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check, Note from Melissa: I have used a sunrise alarm clock for years and swear by it!
- Alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes can disrupt sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime.
- Wind down. Spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. Avoid electronics before bed.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex, to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
Your challenge this week: Decide on one thing you can do to get enough sleep. Make the commitment now, and notice how much better you feel.