Research tells us that focusing on two factors, diet and exercise, is the key to having a successful weight loss journey. However, in recent years we have learned other factors like sleep and focusing on mental health are also needed. Sleep relieves tiredness and is a valuable part of maintaining your mental and physical health.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
The amount of sleep a person needs varies, but most adults generally need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. To determine your sleep needs, try this exercise the next time you’re 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.’ After 2-3 days, or when your sleep stabilizes, record how much you slept plus or minus 15 minutes. That is your sleep need, which you should aim to fulfill nightly.
How Does Sleep Impact Weight?
Not getting enough sleep will make it harder to control your appetite and those pesky food cravings. When people don’t get enough sleep they:
- Have increased levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreased levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
- Consume about 550 calories a day more than when they are well-rested. Most of the extra calories commonly come from high-fat foods.
- Engage in less physical activity.
Why Do You Binge Eat When You Are Tired?
Not getting enough sleep not only causes you to feel run down and tired, but it also can cause you to binge eat. Science tells us that getting 4 hours of sleep or less can cause you to consume 22% more calories than if you had 8 hours of sleep. Eating more than what is needed to cover the energy cost of staying awake longer, especially at night, can lead to significant weight gain over time—on average, overeating while sleepy can result in you consuming an extra 550 calories, which adds up to one pound per week.
Lack of sleep influences at least two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. When empty, your stomach releases the hormone ghrelin, signaling your brain to stop eating. Your fat cells produce leptin, a hormone that signals your brain to stop eating. When you are sleep deprived, your body suppresses leptin while increasing ghrelin which leads to overeating.
Sleep deprivation can also cause emotional and mental distress and reduce coping abilities. When coping skills decrease, 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 ensuring you get enough sleep each night, you are helping yourself avoid those pitfalls on your weight loss journey.
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