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No man or woman on Earth who wasn’t worried about their weight at least once, if not more, in their lives. Truthfully, society often sets the “rules” of what is acceptable, attractive and the list goes on. For example, in the 19th-century weight and height were a major factor when accepting laborers and soldiers because industries and militaries relied on their strength. On the other side, the fertility of women was decided based on their weight.
Later on, diets became popular. A best seller called “How to live” advised people that to lose weight, they should only count calories. Then low-carb diet came along which was created by William Banting who was highly obese, who tried to lose weight by consuming more fat and fewer carbs. It drastically improved his health, and since then it the diet was specifically named by him – the Banting diet.
But let’s face it, what may work for you may not for somebody else and vice versa. There are so many recommendations, fast diets, teas for losing weight and protein shakes to gain it. People always focus on exercise, food intake, etc. but they disregard one thing that is essential both for overall health and weight. This might be the missing puzzle piece for our success – sleep.
Link Between Sleep and Weight
Not sleeping enough will lead your brain into making bad decisions. That can dull the frontal lobe of the brain where the control for impulse and decision-making lies. Like a hangover, you won’t have the clarity to make a wise choice. Besides, if you are exhausted, the reward centers in your brain are messed up and you will continuously feel food cravings. You can probably make some excellent comfort food, but when you’re overly tired, you won’t be able to resist eating something high in sugar, like a cake.
A bad thing about it is that when you consume food higher in carbs and sugar plus you’re sleep deprived, you are less likely to exercise because you’ll lack the energy to do so.
Studies show that if you are sleep deprived you are more likely to eat snacks late at night which are high in carbs. During one trial people who were sleep deprived, ate snacks that contain two times more fat than those who slept regular eight hours. If you don’t get enough sleep, chances are you will gain more weight which is why seven to seven and a half hours would be optimal for a good night sleep.
This all happens because lack of sleep affects main hormones which are related to weight gain
- Ghrelin – A hormone of hunger that tells your brain when it’s time to eat.
- Leptin – A hormone of satiety that tells your brain when you’re full.
- Cortisol – A stress hormone which is activated when you wake up and manages body usage of fat, carbs, and proteins.
- Insulin – A hormone that is in charge of converting food to energy.
When you are sleep deprived your ghrelin is activated, but the production of leptin is reduced, so it is hard to determine when you’re full. Since we need sleep to help our body function properly, lack of it means that our ability to metabolize carbs is slowed down. That will lead to higher levels of sugar in the blood, and increase the production of cortisol and insulin. Your body will later create insulin resistance which will store the fats rather than processing them resulting in weight gain.
Lack of proper sleep makes you groggy metabolically. Just after four days of poor sleep, the ability of the body to process insulin goes off course — the sensitivity of insulin drops by thirty percent.
Losing thirty minutes of sleep every day for a more extended period of time will also affect insulin sensitivity. People often try to make up for lost sleep by sleeping in during the weekend. It’s understandable because our tempo of life is hectic and catching enough ZZZs can be a challenge. But keep in mind that the longer you do that, the more you’ll be exposed to the risk of obesity and type two diabetes.
If changes aren’t made to your lifestyle, you might be in a risk of metabolic syndrome. Sleep that is in fragments can disrupt the levels of glucose which can lead to insulin resistance, hypertension, dyslipidemia and so on. Some researchers say that other factors, such as snoring, can increase metabolic syndrome risk. They suggest that if sleeping in fragments is caused by loud snoring, it can lead to additional problems like high levels of stress and weight gain.
Oxidative stress is usually triggered by disruptions of sleep and can take part in your weight gain. Excessive weight can cause the development of sleep apnea later on. Individuals with sleep apnea might find more difficult to make a change in their diet or exercise plan because they will not have enough energy, they lack self-control and simply have poor mood. All these side effects are consequences of accumulated loss of sleep.
Insomnia and Weight
People who are depressed, stressed and anxious can have difficulty falling asleep. The repetitive pattern of poor sleep can lead to symptoms of insomnia. If you add negative thoughts about your weight altogether, you might be at risk of developing eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Some individuals use diet pills in hope to lose weight but these usually contain guarana or caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine can make you feel energized and later cause sleeping troubles.
Oversleeping and Weight Gain
Sleeping too much won’t always result in weight loss; often it’s another way around. It is true that you will skip meals so it might seem like you won’t eat a lot. However, you should remember that you won’t eat as many fruit and vegetables and will more likely order fast food because it’s easier. You won’t like hearing this but if you do not exercise you can gain as much as two pounds each month.
Physicians advise to time our meals based on the circadian clock. Circadian rhythm is necessary for our functions in the body such as organ function, sleep-wake cycle, temperature regulation, hormone production and more.
Oversleeping has many risk factors that are much more serious than weight gain, for example
- Increased risk of stroke and heart disease
- Anxiety, depression and similar mood connected problems
- Higher risk of inflammation in the body
- Memory issues
When a person sleeps 15 to 20 hours to prevent weight gain by skipping meals is dangerous for long-term health. In addition to all possible risks stated, sleeping too much around meal time can deprive your body of its vital fuel which is necessary activities that promote good health from lungs and heart functions to bones and muscles regeneration.
Now that we covered how important sleep is to our body weight and overall health let’s consider some helpful tips to maintain healthy sleep architecture.
Tips for better sleep
Most of our tech gadgets are very useful, but they always seem to lure us into staying awake just a little bit longer. Here is how we can create a healthy bedtime routine to ensure good night sleep.
- Create a nightly ritual to help you relax; it doesn’t have to be anything big. A warm bubble bath will do the trick and maybe some light reading.
- Avoid using your screen ideally 30 to 60 min before sleep. No phone, TV, laptop, enjoy your bedtime routine.
- Reserve your bedroom for sex and sleep only. The first thought of your bedroom should awake relaxing vibes instead of work and stress.
- Create a sleep-wake schedule and stick to it, even on weekends.
- Pay attention to when and what you eat. Refrain from eating heavy or spicy food before sleep as it can trigger heartburn.
- Don’t leave the lights on. It would be best to make your room darker to stimulate the natural process of melatonin production.
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A fashion designer by profession, writer by choice and bookworm – always. As a person struggling with anxiety for years and someone who loves to sleep, I can relate to the struggles of getting a good night’s rest. When I’m not doing sleep research, I enjoy reading books, being involved in creative activities and discovering the best use of my Moka pot.