Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why is sleep so important when trying to lose weight?

I have had trouble with falling asleep my whole life. I've been a night owl since I was a kid, and my body just never got used to going to bed before midnight, usually much later than that. When I was in high school, I suffered from really awful insomnia that would keep me up for days on end. Seriously. I hardly ever slept! Looking back on that time, I realize that I gained 60 pounds in one year - the year when I was told I suffered from insomnia. I was 17. This is when my weight troubles began. I remember weighing myself on new years eve and thinking I only had 20 pounds to lose, and the following new years I weighed myself again and was shocked to see I had to lose over 85 pounds to get to my goal weight. Ouch. 60 pounds in ONE YEAR.

Why did I gain so much weight so fast? It's really simple, and I wish I had known this back then, because my life could be a lot easier right now.

When you don't get enough sleep, your body is low on energy and it causes your brain to believe you NEED sugary foods for that instant rush on energy.  Your body will also have more trouble processing glucose which can lead to gaining weight. If you're having trouble sleeping, your body also is producing higher levels of cortisol & slows your metabolism down to a stop. As if THAT wasn't enough, your body will most likely be too tired to exercise, leading to weight gain.

"It's a no-brainer that sleep is important. There's nothing like a good night's rest to make you feel rejuvenated, energetic and ready for your day. Not to mention that research has shown that a lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes, obesity and injuries.  Now there's a new study out furthering the cause for getting a solid 6-8 hours of sleep a night. According to the October 5 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, not getting enough sleep may inhibit fat loss in dieters.

In the study, dieters were divided into two groups: those who got about 8 hours of sleep and those who only got about 5 hours of sleep. While both groups lost the same amount of weight on a calorie-controlled diet, the amount of fat they lost was dependent on how much sleep they had. The group who got a full night's sleep had weight loss that consisted of 50 percent or more from fat, while the reduced sleep group had only one-fourth of their weight loss from fat, according to the study.

It's well researched that when sleep is restricted, levels of ghrelin go up and leptin levels go down. Ghrelin is a hormone that triggers hunger and reduces energy expenditure, while leptin controls appetite. So when you don't get enough sleep, it's a whole lot easier for your dieting willpower to go right out the window. It's actually hormonal. Unfortunately, most Americans aren't getting enough sleep, which is probably playing a role in the obesity epidemic." Taken from here.

How much sleep should you shoot for a night? As close to 7 to 9 hours as possible. You don't want to sleep too much, but you need to make sure you're shooting for 8 for weight loss.

What can you do to make sure you get more sleep each night?
- Exercise! Even if it's just walking for 20 minutes a day, it will go a long way.
- Try establishing a bedtime. I know it sounds silly, but your body will get used to going to bed at the same time each night & fall into a pattern.
- Cut out as much caffeine as possible from your diet, preferably completely. If you can't do that, at least stop having caffeinated beverages at least 4 hours before bed.
- Make your room very dark. Get an eye mask.
- Avoid naps.

Good luck and happy resting!

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