Diet and exercise are considered to be the two main factors of successful weight loss and weight management. However, in recent years, significant scientific evidence has shown a positive correlation between sleep and weight control.  How so, you might ask? One example is that avoiding sleep deprivation will help you control your appetite and reduce cravings. Sleep not only provides the obvious relief from feeling tired but it’s also a valuable part of maintaining mental and emotional well-being along with your physical health.

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep needs vary, but in general, most adults need seven to nine hours a night. Some people can make do with less, and others need more.  It depends on your body and its needs. 

You can gauge how much sleep you personally need by trying this:

The next time you are on vacation, go to bed at your usual time, but do not use an alarm clock to wake up.  For the first couple of days, you may sleep more than usual, which is your body’s way of paying back your ‘sleep debt.’  Then, when your sleep has stabilized, record how much you sleep, plus or minus 15 minutes. That is your sleep need or capacity, which you should then aim to fulfill nightly.

How to Know if You’re Sleep Deprived

You might be saying to yourself, what’s the big deal, right?  Wrong! Sleep deprivation is a real issue that many people deal with on a daily basis and may not even realize they are sleep deprived.

When someone is sleep deprived, they can experience many indicators:

  • Increased levels of the hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreased levels of the fullness hormone called leptin, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
  • Eating extra empty calories (around 300 calories), most of which are commonly high fat foods.
  • Snack more and engage in less physical activity.
  • Have increased levels of an appetite-regulating hormone called endocannabinoids.  For people who are sleep-deprived, endocannabinoids increase specifically in the afternoon and promote eating for pleasure, which is called “hedonic eating”.

How Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

Sleep deprivation can also cause emotional distress, reduced coping abilities, and decreased mental strength to withstand challenges.  Imagine how sticking with a new routine or changing habits can be more difficult than usual when you’re also running low on sleep.

Sleeping well helps to replenish our ability to cope. When coping skills are depleted, life’s stressors tend to take on a greater intensity, increasing negative feelings like anger, frustration, and stress.  This often leads to using food as a coping tool. By making sure you get enough sleep each night, you are helping yourself to avoid those pitfalls.

Solutions for a Better Night’s Sleep:

1. Keep a Sleep Schedule

Wake up and head to bed at the same time everyday.  This will help your body set its internal clock, helping you wake up when you are rested.  If you need an alarm clock to wake up, you need to go to bed earlier! This is your body’s way of telling you it requires more time asleep to function on a daily basis.  You should also avoid sleeping in late on the weekends. The later you sleep, the more you shift your sleep schedule which ends up creating more sleep debt!

2.  Light Exposure

Make sure to enjoy the daylight!  Open up your curtains and let the light shine in.  Using this as a ‘natural alarm clock’ will help your body better understand the difference between night and day.  On the other hand, avoid bright screens, televisions, and phones 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. When you are ready for bedtime, make sure the room is comfy, dark and quiet to ensure a good night’s rest.

3. Limit your Stimulants

Limiting your caffeine and nicotine intake will help you get a better night’s sleep, since caffeine takes up to 10 hours to leave our system. 

You should also avoid alcohol before bedtime!  Even though alcohol can feel like it has a relaxing effect on the body, it interferes with your sleep cycle. 

Sleep is an imperative part of our health, which is why we need to make time for it and not just take what we can get! Contact your local CoreLife Healthcare Center with any questions about these or any weight loss related topics.