How Sleep Affects Weight and Health

Are you trying to shed a few pounds? New studies have shown that sleep affects weight and health more than you may think? In fact, it is just as important – if not more so – than diet and exercise. 

So, now you don't have to feel guilty about hitting the snooze button a few extra times in the morning.

Great news! The amount and quality of sleep that you get is directly linked to the production of many chemicals and hormones within your body.

And, it is those chemicals or hormones that affect your appetite, cravings, and the way you burn or store energy.  

How Much Sleep do we Need?

Experts say that the average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep a night. However, most people get 6 or less. And, to make matters even worse, it's often not restful, restorative sleep. Research has shown that over 75% of people report having some type of sleep difficulty ranging from occasional insomnia(1-3 times a week) to sleep apnea or frequent awakening. According the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, over 35% of people are suffering from sleep deprivation, but some studies have suggested that this number could be much higher. 

So, one of the main reasons that we are sick and overweight is.......we're tired. Diet and exercise is important, but you might actually be wasting your time if you aren't getting enough sleep. Are you one of those people who is frustrated because you carefully count every calorie and get your 10,000 steps in every day but still can't seem to lose weight?

Well, maybe the answer isn't as complicated as getting the right carb-to-protein ratio or the ideal cardio-to-resistance training balance. Quite possibly, the solution is a simple one. It may all come down to getting a little more sleep.

How Sleep Affects Weight

sleep affects weight

Some doctors say that obesity rates are on the rise because so many people are sleep deprived. Of course, much of the blame should still be put on processed foods and inactivity; but, you can't ignore the research.

Sleep affects the production of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which regulate your appetite. Studies have shown that, for most people, the less sleep you get, the more you want to eat. Maybe it's your body's way of begging for energy. And, most of the time it's not screaming, “Give me carrots and kale.” When you are tired, you want sweet, carb-laden, comfort food, no?

Consider these facts. Many studies have found that people who got less than 7 hours of sleep a night:

  • We are more likely to be obese than those who got enough sleep (50% greater chance in adults and more than an 80% chance in children).

  • Lost 50% less body fat but nearly 70% more lean body mass than those who got adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can affect your hormones which can cause your body to lose weight from muscles instead of fat tissue.

  • Were less likely to achieve their weight loss goals. People who got 7-9 hours of sleep a night were 30% more likely to succeed.

  • Felt hungrier and wanted to eat more often than those who slept more.

  • Had a slower metabolism. You feel sluggish when you're tired, right? Well, so does your metabolism. Did you know that simply getting enough shuteye can increase your metabolic rate and allow you to burn up to 400 more calories per day?

  • We are more likely to overeat. A recent study showed that sleep-deprived people consumed nearly 300 more calories on average than those who were well rested.

  • Were less likely to make healthy choices. People suffering from lack of sleep reported having less energy, less ambition to exercise, and greater cravings for unhealthy food choices. And, tired people have less will power.

While weight loss or maintenance is a great reason to spend more time with the sandman, the benefits don't stop there. 

How Sleep Affects Health

1. It Reduces Inflammation. People who get less than 6 hours of quality sleep per night often have higher levels of inflammation (measured by a blood test), and science has proven that inflammation can be linked to many serious medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, and arthritis. Getting sufficient sleep helps your body combat inflammation and reduces your risk of developing these issues.

2. It Reduces Stress. Cortisol is often associated with weight gain, so many weight loss products will claim to melt away fat by lowering cortisol levels in the body. However, you can do this naturally by managing the two things that increase cortisol production: stress and lack of sleep. Unfortunately, this can be a vicious cycle – stress causes lack of sleep and lack of sleep causes stress. Studies have shown that a good night's sleep can help stabilize hormones so that you are better able to deal with stressful situations. And, of course, when you have less stress, you will sleep better. So, find a way to relax before you go to bed, and give your body the rest it craves.

3. It Boosts Immunity. According to research, people who get less than 7 hours sleep per night are almost 3 times as likely to get sick. Sleep-deprivation weakens the immune system and makes you more susceptible to colds, flus, and other illnesses. Also, it is during the periods of deep sleep that your body repairs muscles and tissues, produces the proteins needed to build cells, and strengthens the immunity system to fight the viruses, bacteria, and environmental stresses it will have to face during an average day.

4. It Improves Athletic Performance. Studies of sports teams have shown that athletes who get enough sleep improve both their speed and endurance. They have less fatigue, more energy, and are able to push themselves harder. So, if you have been wanting to move your workout to the next level but just can't seem to break through the plateau, maybe all you need is a little more sleep.

5. It Improves Mood and Decreases Depression. Lack of sleep reduces the production of serotonin, a chemical that has been linked to depression. One large study of more than 1,400 adults found that people with sleep apnea and other sleep disorders were twice as likely to battle depression. But, even if depression isn't a problem, everyone is in a better mood when they aren't tired, right? When you get enough sleep, you feel better, you have less anxiety, and you are more emotionally stable. That's good for you and everyone around you.

6. It Improves Memory. When you sleep, something called Memory Consolidation takes place. This is your brain's way of processing everything that happened during your day – building memories and connections and making sense of all the information that it has gathered. Sleep-deprivation can hinder this process, which can lead to forgetfulness, an inability to learn, and difficulty processing (or responding to) the events that happen throughout your day.

7. It Increases Longevity. There is no doubt that a healthy lifestyle should include adequate sleep. Getting enough rest benefits your overall health and can actually lengthen your lifespan. Sleep-deprivation is associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but research has proven that people who change their sleeping patterns (among other things) are able to bring both of these factors into a healthy range. In fact, a daily  nap seems to lower the chance of dying from heart disease. Plus, a well rested body is a strong body so getting enough sleep will also improve your quality of life. But, beware, problems can also arise from getting too much sleep. It's all about balance.

8. It Improves Focus and Thinking. Lack of sleep impairs your ability to think, react, focus, and make decisions. On the other hand, getting enough sleep will make you more alert, energized, and able to face the day.

Sleep Affects Weight

Sleep affects weight, health, and your overall well-being. Getting enough will benefit your body and mind, make you feel happy and balanced, and improve your level of motivation so you can enjoy all that life has to offer.

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I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or ideas you would like to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum

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