Sleep and weight loss
Although you might not think it, sleep and weight are intrinsically linked.
Now, let’s get this straight, you’re not going to lose weight by sleeping; however, getting enough quality sleep will significantly reduce your risk of obesity.
Why are you less likely to be obese if you get enough quality sleep?
The statistics suggest that you are less likely to be obese if you get enough quality sleep because of three, very simple, scientifically proven facts:
- When you don’t get enough quality sleep your hunger levels increase!
- When you don’t get enough quality sleep you actually consume more!
- When you don’t get enough quality sleep you eat more junk!
It’s as simple as that.
These three simple reasons are all I really need to know in order to improve my sleeping habits; hopefully, they are good enough for you too!
1. Your hunger levels increase when you are sleep deprived
Inadequate sleep has been scientifically proven to decrease concentrations of leptin and increase levels of ghrelin in the brain.
Leptin is the hormone that signals a sense of feeling full, whilst ghrelin increases your desire to eat.
An imbalance of either of these hormones can lead to overeating.
Maybe this is why Shaggy ad Scooby ate so much when they were out late, hunting ghouls – it was because their leptin levels dropped and their ghrelin levels rose. Or maybe, as has been suggested, they were hippies who enjoyed a doobie.
Speaking of doobies, another reason for sleep-deprived hunger spikes is because of an increase in endocannabinoids circulating in your system.
You may have guessed that endocannabinoids are chemicals produced by the body that are very similar to cannabis.
These chemicals increase your desire to eat, otherwise known as “having the munchies;” again, like Shaggy and Scoob.
2. You consume more when you are sleep deprived
Not only do your hunger levels increase when you are sleep deprived, unsurprisingly, the amount of food you actually consume increases too.
A specific scientific study proved this by testing the eating habits of the same people after they had four nights of eight and a half hours’ in bed, versus four nights of four and a half hours’ in bed.
They were limited to the same amount of exercise each day to maintain the objectivity of the study.
It was found that the same people, kept under the same conditions, consumed around 300 calories more, per day, when they had four and a half hours’ in bed compared to when they had eight and a half hours’ in bed.
There is a fallacy that this occurs because sleep deprived individuals need to eat more to fuel their body’s demands when awake.
Scientific research proves that the increase in food consumption of sleep deprived individuals exceeds energy demands and therefore is a pathway to pleasure rather than to fulfil a caloric need.
What do people find most pleasurable?
Sweet, salty or fatty snacks…
3. You eat more junk food when you’re sleep deprived
As already mentioned in The Mental Benefits Of Sleep, when we are sleep deprived, we revert to our primitive nature and our emotions run riot.
In this state our bodies constantly seek pleasurable experiences. Cravings and urges are heightened.
Again, the science backs this up.
Studies have proven that sleep-deprived individuals are much more likely to reach for those “highly palatable, rewarding snacks,” including sweets (cookies, chocolate and ice-cream), heavy-hitting carbs (bread and pasta) and salty snacks (crisps and pretzels).
One study identified an increase in consumption of these foods by 30% to 40% when sleep was reduced by several hours each night and the consumption of protein-rich foods, dairy items and fatty foods increased by 10% to 15%.
Another study found that such “rewarding foods” were consumed two hours after participants eat a meal that supplied 90% of their daily caloric needs.
Sleep helps you maintain a healthy weight – A common sense view
For those of you who have suffered the day after a night-out during a misspent youth, a flight delay where you have spent most of the night awake, or a long day/night at work; just think, how much do you eat in those situations and what sort of foods do you eat?
Speaking from experience, your response is most likely to be “I binge on whatever is easily accessible and satisfies my cravings.”
A Chinese takeaway was always my go-to food after a night out, but McDonalds, pizza, kebabs and cheesy chips are all common choices.
Fortunately, those days are over for me.
This isn’t just common for party animals, professionals succumb to temptations too – working overnight on that important project, eating takeaways and drinking copious amounts of coffee, sugary drinks and beer just to keep them satisfied and energised.
Common sense backs up the science. Sleep helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
For more on sleeps impact on weight and inflammation
If you want to do a little more scientific research into how lack of sleep results in weight gain and inflammation, start with the work of Dr Eve Van Cauter, the director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago.
She has been researching this topic for decades!
Anything to add? Let us know in the comments box below!