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Sleep and Weight Loss

Sleep and Weight Gain

Losing weight can be difficult. Consistently sticking to a healthy diet and having a regular exercise regimen doesn’t always come as second nature to some people. But diet and exercise aren’t the only things that need attention for weight loss. Many people argue that the most important thing someone can do to keep a healthy weight, might be the easiest thing anyone can do: sleep. Sleep is crucial for the body in many ways, because irregular sleeping patterns have a direct impact on body mass index (BMI).

Studies show that the vast majority of both children and adults with shorter sleeping cycles have an increased likelihood of gaining weight. Consequently, weight gain causes a decrease in sleep quality, turning the whole mess into a vicious cycle. Sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea, are also worsened by weight gain, which contributes to further weight gain. Poor sleep habits take a toll on the entire body.

Sleep and the Brain

A lack of proper sleep causes the frontal lobe of the brain to function poorly. The frontal lobe is the region of the brain that is in charge of impulse control and decision-making. Someone who wants to lose weight is more likely to make poor dieting decisions or may even be lacking in self-control over their eating habits.

People who are sleep deprived have a brain that needs to do something, just to feel better. The result is a need for comfort, and that usually leads to food. Comfort food is what people go to when they need to feel happier or more secure, and these foods typically contain a lot of carbs, fats, and sugars. Late-night snacking also increases with bad sleeping habits, along with an elevated desire for junk food.

Hunger Hormones

Sleep has a significant impact on how people feed themselves and their appetites. Good sleeping habits affect how the body regulates hunger hormone production. Two hormones, in particular, called ghrelin and leptin, work to inform the brain about hunger levels.

  • Ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for letting the brain know that it is time to eat. It raises hunger levels. The bad news is that the body produces more of it when there is a lack of proper sleep. Higher ghrelin levels tend to result in overeating.
  • Leptin. In contrast to ghrelin, leptin works just the opposite in that it is the hormone responsible for decreasing hunger levels. When someone isn’t getting good enough sleep, the body produces less leptin, and it doesn’t recognize when they’ve had enough food.

Sleep and the Metabolism

The body’s metabolism is essential for weight loss. It is a naturally occurring chemical process in which the body converts food people eat into the natural units of energy known as calories. The body uses and burns these calories through physical activity. The body then stores any energy it does not use as fat. Sleep dramatically affects how well the metabolism functions.

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is a measurement of how many calories the body naturally burns when it is at rest. Studies suggest that poor sleeping habits lower resting metabolic rates in people, causing the body to store more calories during rest. Poor sleep also causes muscle loss. It is the muscles that burn calories during rest more than fat, therefore muscle loss lowers RMR as well.

Sleep and Overall Fatigue

People may feel as though sleeping is not as important as it really is for energy. After all, it takes little to no energy to fall asleep. However, sleep is essential for producing significantly higher energy levels when the body is awake and active. Contrarily, studies seem to indicate that a lack of sleep plays a role in overall fatigue during the day and leaves people less motivated to exercise – and more motivated to eat.

Insulin Resistance

Insulin is an important hormone.  It is a hormone that transfers sugar in the bloodstream to the body’s cells so they can use it as energy. Someone who does not have healthy sleeping habits is more prone to develop insulin resistance. When the body becomes insulin resistant, there is an increase in blood sugar levels, and the body responds to the higher insulin levels by storing extra calories as fat. The result is high blood sugar levels and weight gain. High blood sugar levels are also linked to type 2 diabetes.

Sleep is vital for weight control. It is one of many reasons that the brain and body let someone know when it is time to rest. Do not ignore what the body is saying, and get plenty of rest. Doctors recommend at least eight hours of constant, uninterrupted sleep each night to give the body a chance to repair itself.

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