Weight loss can be a frustrating process.
For some, you can be doing everything right, yet the pounds and inches just won’t budge.
If you’ve found yourself needing to lose weight, I’m sure you’re attacking that problem in two primary ways: diet and exercise. And, you’re certainly not wrong in focusing on those healthy methods.
However, while those areas are most often focused upon, there could be something missing from your efforts that is just as crucial to your weight loss success.
The thing is, getting adequate, quality sleep is a crucial component of weight loss.
That’s right, if sleep is not a priority, your weight loss efforts may be in vain!
So then, how does sleep affect weight loss?
Sleep and Weight Loss
The link between poor sleep and obesity has been long established.
But, while a solid 7-9 hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults, many individuals are getting much less than that amount.
And, studies show the detriment of that leads straight to the scale. In fact, the risk of obesity in adults increases by 55% in individuals who do not get enough sleep per night.
In children, that same risk soars to 89%!
So, poor sleep can cause weight gain. But, the reverse is true as well, as obesity can also lead to a decline in sleep quality.
This seems like a no-win situation!
So, how do we break this cycle?
Let’s first look at the negative effects of obesity on quality sleep, and then we’ll discover how poor sleep in turn affects weight.
Obesity Affects Sleep Quality
Getting a good night’s sleep becomes increasingly difficult when you’re overweight. This is because obesity directly affects one’s breathing.
Excess fat can accumulate around the neck, stomach, near airways, or at the base of the tongue. When this happens: airways can collapse, there is decreased lung capacity, and breathing is interrupted
When these interruptions happen during sleep, problems like snoring, shallow sleep syndrome (sleep apnea), or even hypoventilation arise.
While snoring may not seem like a big deal, it is actually an indication that while you are sleeping, your airways are experiencing some kind of obstruction.
While such an obstruction could be caused by things like enlarged adenoids or a deviated septum, when obesity is the culprit, obstructions in the airways lead to worsened conditions.
Eventually, when air flow is impeded, a person can experience times during sleep when their breathing becomes extremely shallow or stops altogether (anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes).
These breaks in breathing or moments of shallow breathing are called apnea. Thus we get the common phrase, sleep apnea.
If this condition worsens, these disruptions in breathing during sleep can cause what is known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.
This occurs when pauses in breathing at night become so severe that a person has difficulty appropriately breathing out carbon dioxide even into the daytime hours.
Besides the obvious decline in sleep quality, both sleep apnea and obesity hypoventilation syndrome can lead to trouble with memory, mood and concentration, daytime sleepiness, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems.
And, as we mentioned earlier…sleep quality in turn affects your ability to lose weight.
Sleep Quality Affects Weight Loss
When trying to lose weight, poor sleep quality may not only be slowing your success, it may be halting it altogether.
One study from the University of Colorado actually found that in just one week’s time of individuals getting only 5 hours of sleep nightly, the average person actually gained 2 pounds!
So, in what ways can sleep help you lose weight?
Getting enough sleep each night can actually help you reduce and resist cravings.
This is because a lack of sleep can actually mess with your head. No, really…it can!
Sleep deprivation affects both the frontal lobe of your brain and areas within the brainstem.
Within the frontal lobe, brain activity is actually diminished with a lack of sleep.
Since this section of your brain is associated with discipline or restraint, not getting enough sleep makes you less likely to be able to resist indulging in foods that will derail your weight loss efforts.
Your brainstem houses what are referred to as the reward centers of your brain.
When you skimp on sleep, these reward centers are actually stimulated. And, when this happens, well, you just want that candy bar you view as a treat all the more.
Greater Caloric Consumption
When we don’t sleep well and don’t sleep enough, those added waking hours can lead to added eating time.
One study involving men found that those only getting 4 hours of sleep per night compared to nights where they got 8 hours of sleep, consumed nearly 600 additional calories the day after those sleepless nights.
And, how often are you guilty of skipping sleep to watch a little extra television? I mean, you’ve worked all day, dinner is over, and it’s time to relax, right?
After dinner, and in front of the television are two of the most common times when people consume extra calories.
Skipping those television sessions at night and opting for added sleep time can aid you in your weight loss journey.
Insufficient sleep can obviously leave you feeling tired throughout the day. And, who feels like exercising when they’re tired?
So what though, right? You’re in this to win it! You’re pushing towards your weight loss goals come hell or high water.
Except, without adequate sleep, you might have noticed that even those workout sessions tire you out more than usual.
Studies show that reduction in sleep times leads to a decrease in both duration and intensity of exercise.
On the flip side of that, another study revealed that added sleep times (10 hours per night in this study) improved physical activity.
Making sleep a priority will improve your motivation to exercise and your ability to push yourself to do your best during those workout sessions, thus aiding in weight loss.
Lack of sleep can cause great changes to your body at the hormonal level.
Leptin, a hormone that is involved in appetite suppression, is decreased when you don’t get enough sleep.
Ghrelin, a hormone involved in making you feel hungry, is increased when you’re sleep deprived.
And, cortisol, often termed the stress hormone, is also increased from lack of sleep, and thus causes an increase in hunger.
I don’t know about you, but my mind plays enough tricks on me regarding hunger when I’m trying to shed extra pounds. So, the last thing I need is my own body “kicking me when I’m down” in that regard.
Getting a recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can keep these hormones in balance and appropriately aid in appetite suppression, keeping hunger at bay.
Growth Hormone And Sleep For Weight Loss
Another hormone that is crucial concerning weight loss is that of human growth hormone (HGH).
Before puberty, we need this hormone for growth. And after puberty, HGH in adults is responsible for regulating our metabolism and blood sugar levels.
Adults with a shortage of this hormone are prone to both muscle loss and weight gain (in particular, excess fat).
As with everything else discussed above, sleep is crucial to maintaining optimal levels of growth hormone within the body.
It is estimated that 75% of HGH release happens during sleep.
Each night as you lie in your bed, your body goes through various stages or cycles of sleep. During the first stage, the largest release of HGH occurs.
Then, when you enter the stage of deep sleep, growth hormone works restoratively throughout your body.
As disturbances or reduction in sleep affect your sleep cycles, HGH production and release is affected as well, sometimes preventing its release altogether.
Getting adequate sleep boosts growth hormone levels and goes a long way in both combating weight gain and facilitating weight loss.
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