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Do you wish staying slim was as easy as sleeping? According to the authors of one recent study, when and how we rest can play a huge role in weight loss and your risk of becoming obese. In this guide, we’ll cover the top 8 ways your sleeping habits can help you shed some pounds and live a healthier lifestyle.
1. Proper Sleep Gives You the Energy You Need
When you’re not getting enough sleep, your body is running on fumes. Most of the time, your body compensates for a lack of sleep by triggering the release of ghrelin and leptin, hunger hormones that signals the stomach it’s time to eat. If too much of this hormone is secreted, it can result in a much larger caloric intake for the day than initially planned. Studies find those who get less than 7 hours of sleep are more likely to snack throughout the day, so getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep night after night helps curb your appetite and keep your BMI down.
2. Restful Sleep Helps You Perform Your Best
There’s a difference between getting six hours of disturbed sleep and six hours of peaceful shuteye. If you’re constantly waking up in the middle of the night or being interrupted while trying to rest, it prevents your body from entering into deeper, more restorative, sleep stages. Getting adequate Stage 3 and REM sleep helps your muscles and brain recover so you can get a vigorous workout in or just have enough energy to go about your day-to-day.
3. Sleep Deprivation Triggers Fat Stores
If you consistently are shortchanging your quality of sleep, your body produces higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, commonly referred to as your “Fight or Flight” hormone. When your body is under stress, cortisol prompts it to store any energy it absorbs, including fat. Specifically, cortisol promotes the storage of abdominal fat; so, if you’re working on a six-pack, a lack of sleep can be the difference between reaching your weight loss goals and always struggling to shed the extra pounds.
4. Sleep Helps Burn Calories
Your body is burning calories all day long, even if you’re not working out, this is all due to your metaolism. The amount of calories burned when at rest is referred to as “Resting Energy Expenditure,” and a recent study found those who are well-rested burn 20% more calories while at rest than those who are sleep-deprived. Meaning, those who lack in sleep tend to have a lower metabolic rate.
5. Sleep-Deprivation Impacts Your Ability to Process Insulin
Insulin removes fatty acids and lipids from your bloodsteam to prevent fat storage. When insulin is not acting properly, it triggers your body to begin storing fat in places such as your liver and muscle tissues, which contributes to weight gain and the development of diabetes.
What is the Relationship Between Sleep and Type 2 Diabetes?
Recently, the National Sleep Foundation released a study assessing the relationship between quality and amount of sleep with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If your body isn’t getting enough rest, it throws your hormones all out of sync; your body can produce too much or too little of certain hormones and hormones can lose their ability to function properly. As we just mentioned, insulin is one of those hormones that can be disrupted by a lack of sleep. When your blood sugar levels are too high, it can cause you to feel groggy and tired, hindering your ability (and motivation) to get a good workout in. Exercise helps regulate your blood sugar levels, so if you’re not focusing yourself to get a workout in, it can lead to a vicious cycle of elevated glucose levels in your body. To stay your healthiest, keep a consistent sleep schedule and stick to your workout plan.
6. Sleep Kills Cravings
When you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep, it seems your body wants everything sugary and unhealthy in sight. If every delicious carb is testing your will-power, you’re less likely to stick to your diet and more inclined to indulge in sweets. To help eliminate cravings, get adequate hours of healthy sleep every night.
Tackle Cravings with Healthy Snacks for Sleep
If you’re feeling the fogginess of daytime fatigue and need extra energy to get through your day, skip the sugary snacks, and incorporate some of the best foods for sleep into your diet plan. Fortunately, many of these foods don’t take much effort to prepare and are easy to grab and take on the go, such as almonds, bananas, and yogurt. If you’re needing more than just a snack, we recommend grabbing a turkey sandwich; both turkey and whole grains are effective at promoting sleep, so a turkey sandwich kills two birds with one stone.
What you drink throughout the day can impact your weight loss journey, too. Cravings for sugary drinks could lead you to the soda machine or nearest Starbucks, but we recommend you drink teas and sparkling waters, instead. Iced or hot tea gives you a boost throughout the day, and is healthy for you, too.
Stay on top of your late-night snacking, too. Eating junk food during the late-night hours can contribute to fat storage and weight gain. Maintain a healthy weight and keep your daily number of calories down by eliminating foods after 7 p.m.
Tips for Getting Better Sleep
Whether you are in shape or working to lose weight, getting good, quality rest is important for physical and mental health. The science of quality shut-eye is called sleep hygiene, and the following tips and practices are those that have been found to be most important for getting an adequate quantity and quality of rest.
- Set a consistent sleep time and wake times that allow you to get 7-9 hours every night. While many of us had set bedtimes as kids, science is showing that consistent schedules can also benefit adults. In addition to ensuring you get enough time for sleep every day, this practice can also reduce your risk of some sleep disorders, and as illustrated in the study above, setting a sleep schedule may help you maintain a healthier weight as well.
- While it may not sound terribly exciting, maintaining the same sleep schedule on weekends offers the greatest benefit. The Brigham Young study showed that varying one’s schedule by more than 60 minutes affected body fat, but researchers have also found that it can disrupt the natural circadian cycle, making it hard to function on the dreaded Mondays.
- Avoid heavy meals and fatty foods in the evening, and cut out caffeine and other stimulants several hours before bed. Learn more about how diet can help or hurt sleep in our previous article.
- Make sure your bedroom is sleep friendly by keeping electronics and other distractions out. Your room should be very dark and cool. Sounds can be mitigated with ear plugs or white noise machines, while lights can be reduced with window shades or eye masks.
- Make sure your mattress is in good condition so that you can sleep comfortably. If your bed isn’t providing enough support or causes pressure points, it may be time to replace it. If neck pain keeps you up, it may be time for you to start looking for the best pillow. Also, don’t forget to wash sheets and bedding often to limit allergens and other nasties.
- Start a pre-sleep routine so your body and mind are prepared for bed. Some popular ideas include reading a book, taking a bath, doing some light yoga, or simply listening to relaxing music. Physically and mentally stressful activities should be avoided.
- Read more tips on Harvard’s healthy sleep website.
While research is not yet definitive on why exactly sleep affects weight or how, if you are trying to get in shape it may be worthwhile to consider improving sleep habits. Poor sleep quality is also linked with a host of other physical and mental health issues, so developing healthy sleep hygiene is a win-win situation for both your well-being and possibly your waistline.