How Sleep Loss Can Negatively Impact Weight Loss

Picture of a sleepy catThe cooler weather is here, and the leaves are starting to fall; it must be almost time for the kids to start dressing up in silly costumes and begging for candy!
Speaking of candy, it has become a tradition for adults to go through their children’s candy to ensure its safety. Perhaps, at the same time they confiscate their favorite candy for their own. Don’t do it! Along with that candy are empty carbs, sugar and calories, which can derail the excellent progress that you have made on the Go Figure Weight Loss Program!

One tip that may help you regulate you and the children’s candy consumption would be to keep the candy on a top shelf of a cupboard in the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind!

Negative Effects of Sleep Loss and its Impact on Weight Loss

Ahhh, sleep: It is essential to our body functioning properly. However, if you have ever suffered from a sleepless night or two, you know it is not always simple to get a good night’s rest. For some of us, sleep is an elusive element to our lives that we covet and chase after night after night. For others, sleep is something that comes easily without much effort.

How much sleep do we need to stay healthy?

The amount of sleep needed is largely dependent upon the individual, including genetic factors. According to researchers, there are at least two components associated with sleep to consider: basal sleep need and sleep debt.

Basal sleep need is the amount of sleep to be able to function at our best and varies with individuals; according to The National Sleep Foundation the average adult needs between 7-9 hours of basal sleep each night.

Sleep debt is the total sleep lost due to illness, sleep environment, or lack of healthy sleep habits. Studies have shown if you are in too much of a sleep debt, you can be adversely affected in cognitive ability and can struggle with your mood.

The sleep that you need each night will be based on the amount of sleep that you’re deprived. This means if you get the recommended basal sleep needed one night, but had 2 prior nights of restless sleep, you’re in sleep debt. You may still struggle with an excessive lack of alertness and sleepiness, especially during the dips in our natural sleep/wake cycle known as circadian rhythm. (I.e. before bed and before waking.)

How does this affect weight gain?

There are at least two theories that are supported through research:

One is that scientists have found a lack of sleep increases two hormones in a small part of the brain called the hypothalamus, affecting hunger and satiety levels, which may cause people to overeat and result in weight gain. These two hormones are leptin and ghrelin.

The hormone, leptin, is regulated by fat cells which signal the body’s energy needs. When leptin levels are low this stimulates the appetite, when leptin levels are high this signals the feeling of fullness. The second hormone, ghrelin, is responsible for stimulating the appetite mostly through the stomach. When ghrelin levels are high it signals a stimulation of appetite.

In one recent study on sleep deprivation by the Research Laboratory on Sleep, Chronobiology and Neuroendocrinology at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, 12 subjects came into the lab to sleep and eat breakfast and dinner. When the subjects were limited to just 4 hours of sleep each night, the average leptin levels were 18% lower, and ghrelin levels were 28% higher than they were prior to beginning the study. The subjects with the greatest change in these two levels also were the most hungry and craved carbohydrate-rich foods.

According to one study, just one night of sleep deprivation can cause insulin resistance in healthy individuals. Insulin resistance is when your body’s muscle, liver, and fat cells are restricted in the amount of glucose (blood sugar) they are able to take in due to the reduced sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas which is essential for the uptake of glucose into cells. Your body registers that there are low levels of insulin available, and signals to the pancreas to produce more to allow for the uptake of glucose into cells. When the pancreas cannot produce any further, there is a build-up of blood glucose in the bloodstream. When there is elevated glucose in the bloodstream you are considered prediabetic resulting in excess weight around the midsection, and abnormal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

Interestingly enough, after a few nights of being sleep deprived, people can have elevated glucose levels because of a reduced ability in glucose metabolism pathways. Studies have shown after a high-carbohydrate meal it may take 40% longer to metabolize than normal. This, paired with our knowledge of how we crave high-carbohydrate foods after a restless night’s sleep, is a recipe for disaster.

What can you do to sleep better?

Some important factors for adequate rest are to create an environment that promotes sleep. Here are some tips to help you make your space conducive to rest:

  • Do some soothing activities before bed to help you get ready for rest mentally: take a bath, or read a magazine or book.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid beverages a few hours before bed to lessen the need to get up several times at night.
  • Make your bedroom for just sleep and sex only. Do not work, use computers, study or watch tv in bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Light can disrupt your sleep by altering your natural circadian rhythm. Your room should be about 70 degrees: any warmer or cooler will result in an interruption in your sleep patterns.

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