Are you having problems losing weight or you find that you are gaining weight despite reducing your food intake? Lack of sleep May be a major factor. A fascinating study from researchers at the University of Colorado found that one week of sleeping about 5 hours a night led participants to gain an average of 1 kg!! How does this happen? Researchers also found that when dieters cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, the amount of weight they lost from fat dropped by 55%, even though their calories stayed equal. They felt hungrier and less satisfied after meals, and their energy was reduced.
How much sleep do we really need to be healthy? The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep every night for good health. Although some people claim to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, research shows that people who sleep so little over many nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who get closer to seven hours of sleep a night. They also have a host of other problems which may be discussed in subsequent articles.
How lack of sleep affects your weight:
- Changes to hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. The hormone Leptin suppresses appetite and encourages the body to expend energy. Sleep deprivation reduces Leptin. The hormone Ghrelin, on the other hand, triggers feelings of hunger—and goes up when you’re short on sleep. So obviously, you tend to eat more with less sleep.
- Affects your food cravings, creating more cravings for fat and sugar-laden foods. Your brain can’t make reasoned decisions and use its best judgment about food when sleep deprived, and you’re more likely to be impulsive and give into junk-food desires. We also know that when you don’t sleep well, you’re likely to eat more the next day, which can lead to weight gain.
- Triggers a cortisol spike. Cortisol is a stress hormone that signals your body to conserve energy by storing food as fat.
- Problems with Insulin; insufficient sleep causes your body’s ability to process Insulin to drop. (Insulin is the hormone that changes sugar, starches, and other food into energy). When this happens, your body has trouble processing food, so it ends up storing them as fat. Insulin sensitivity, the researchers found, dropped by more than 30% in those who lack sleep.
Tricks and Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
In today’s world, getting adequate sleep can be difficult, particularly when all your screens (computers, TVs, cell phones, tablets) lure you into staying up just a little longer, and Lagos traffic makes you wake up super early to avoid getting to work late. But I am sure we can still make some little changes to help us get more hours of sleep.
The basics are pretty simple:
- Shut down your computer, cell phone, and TV at least an hour before you usually go to bed
- Save your bedroom for sleep. Try not to have your work materials/gadgets with you in your room.
- Create a bedtime ritual. This may include taking a warm bath, meditation or reading (a real paper book, not blogs/pdf on your phone).
- Stick to a schedule, waking up and going to bed at the same times every day. You may even need to go to bed earlier if you absolutely need to wake up early the following day.
- Watch what and when you eat. Avoid eating heavy meals and alcohol close to bedtime, which may cause heartburn and indigestion and make it hard to fall asleep. Avoid soft drinks, tea, coffee, and chocolate after 2 p.m. Caffeine can stay in your system for 5 to 6 hours.
- Turn out the lights. Darkness cues your body to release the natural sleep hormone melatonin, while light from TV screens, phones and tablets suppresses it.