February 26, 2023
Are you feeling sluggish, tired, and can’t seem to lose those extra pounds? Usually, the blame goes towards too many calories or not enough exercise, but you might not be getting enough sleep! Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain, and it can be difficult to stay healthy and keep those pounds off if you’re not getting enough rest. Let’s explore the connection between lack of sleep and weight gain, and provide some tips for getting the rest you need to maintain a healthy weight.
While the average body mass index (BMI) of many people in developed countries has been steadily increasing over the last decade, the amount of quality sleep gotten each night has actually declined. Now research is suggesting that a chronic lack of enough sleep can actually be one of the causes for packing on those pounds.
So how does not getting enough sleep lead to weight gain? The answer is not that simple and involves a variety of factors. One of the leading theories about lack of sleep and weight gain involves an increase in appetite, or feeling hungry. Most people don’t realize that these feelings of hunger are controlled by a system of neurotransmitters, complex chemical messengers made in your body that carry information from nerve cells to target organs such as muscle cells or glands.
The appetite regulation neurotransmitters are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin turns on your hunger signal and after you have had enough to eat, it’s leptin that helps you to feel full and satisfied. When you don’t get enough sleep, the balance of ghrelin and leptin can get off track, leading to an unnaturally increased appetite as well as a decrease in feelings of fullness after eating.
A lack of sleep also tends to negatively affect your food choices. People who are sleep deprived gravitate towards foods high in both calories and carbohydrates, such as a cream filled doughnut or a large milkshake, certainly not the healthiest choices in terms of taking off weight or keeping it off. A chronic lack of sleep from whatever reason often leads to what is known as metabolic dysregulation, associated with an increase in blood sugar and insulin resistance, which is a precursor to developing diabetes.
In addition, when you lose sleep, you naturally have less energy, and you are much less inclined to exercise or engage in healthful physical activity. Combined, all of these factors contribute to easier weight gain.
Now that we’ve established a connection between not enough sleep and weight gain, let’s look at some simple, but powerfully effective things you can do to make sure you are getting enough rest.
Do your best to stick with a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up each day at approximately the same time, even on weekends. Big swings in your sleep schedule can throw off your body clock and disrupt your metabolism
Make your bedroom as dark as possible. People who sleep with the light from a nightlight, TV or lamp are more prone to gain weight.
Avoid eating right before bed as this has been shown to reduce your chances of losing weight.
Get light on your face (without sunglasses) first thing in the morning for a few minutes. This will help to normalize your circadian rhythm and help you sleep better that night.
If you have chronic insomnia, suspect you have sleep apnea, or other sleep difficulty that just won’t go away, see your physician. You may need a referral to a sleep specialist.
An adequate amount of deep restful sleep is essential to your health, including maintaining a normal body weight. Sweet dreams!
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