I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she told me an interesting story about sleep in relation to weight loss.
My friend had been trying to lose weight for a few months. She was eating a balanced, healthy diet and exercising daily. She thought she was doing all the right things, but the weight stayed on. She was finding it hard to even lose one pound. She started to get pretty frustrated. What was she doing wrong?
The answer came down to sleep. During this time she was working very long hours. Her commute to work was 2 hours each way, and that left little time for sleeping. She was sleeping about 5 hours a night, and really running herself down.
A miraculous thing happened when she moved closer to her job and was able to get into a regular sleep pattern. “As soon as I started getting 8 hours of sleep,” she said, “the weight literally melted off.”
Wow! I knew sleep was important, but I didn’t realize how much of a difference it could make for weight loss. I did a bit of research on why sleep affects weight loss, and here’s what I found:
- Your leptin levels are lower when you sleep less. Leptin increases metabolism and supresses appetite. So – sleep more, and your metabolism increases, and your appetite decreases. Score!
- Ever noticed that when you’re really tired, you reach for snacks that will give you a sugar rush or carb boost? That’s because your ghrelin levels increase when you lack sleep. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. Increased ghrelin levels have been known to stimulate cravings for sweet and salty snacks.
- Not getting enough sleep can lower your basal metabolic rate – the amount of calories you burn when you’re resting.
- When you’re tired, more cortisol (the stress hormone) is released in your body. Stress can stimulate appetite.
- Sleeping less raises levels of glucose in the body, which leads to more fat storage. This is because the body can’t metabolize carbohydrates as effectively when you’re sleep deprived.
Read more about sleep at Sleep Education, and check out this great study by the American Thoracic Society. The study followed 70,000 women over a 16-year period (the largest study to ever track sleep’s effects on weight gain). My personal trainer friend Billy wrote a great post here about why sleep is important for people who work out.
Well, all this info will certainly get me into bed earlier tonight! Clearly, numerous hormones in the body are regulated by sleep. If you’re eating right and exercising but having a hard time shedding pounds, take a look at your sleep habits. Studies show that 7-9 hours per night is optimal.