I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how effective sleep can aide with weight loss and improve your overall health. Of course my curious brain is wondering why and how? So I read a very informative book called Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Matthew has been researching and studying sleep for over twenty years. Although this book kind of gave me a little bit of anxiety about sleep, it deeply emphasized its importance and inspired this blog.
Before I get into why sleep is important for weight loss I will list a few very interesting points on how sleep can improve your overall general health. But first we have to address exactly how much sleep you actually need. According to this scientific book and all the reattach done the answer is eight to nine hours. Any less than that and you will not be able to perform, think, work, learn, or live at your ABSOLUTE best.
Yes there are times where eight hours is just not plausible due to our busy lives including high work demands or crazy schedules, kids, special events or conferences. Your best bet is to TRY your best at getting the eight hours that you need.
Another important thing to add is that there is no such thing as “catching up on sleep”. I know I know, I was upset to hear this fact too but according to the research it is just not a thing, because your body needs to go through all the stages of the different sleep cycles each night to be at maximal focus and productivity.
One big reason you need the different stages of sleep cycles is due to memory. Sleep plays a big role in memory and your ability to learn. Each specific cycle of sleep effects different types of your memory but mainly effects and enhances what you have recently be learning (short term memory).
Sleep also boosts your immune system preventing different sicknesses, ailments, diseases, and infections. Sleep increases and enhances your telomeres preventing different cancers. Sleep lowers your blood pressure and heart rate protecting your cardiovascular system from strokes or heart attacks. Sleep fine tunes your balance of insulin and circulating glucose preventing diabetes. Sleep increases your creativity. Sleep keeps you emotionally stable preventing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Adequate sleep also increases your “sleep spindles” which further enhance athletic performance.
So now let’s talk weight loss. How does sleeping eight hours each night aide in weight loss?
When we don’t sleep enough our body becomes “stingy” about losing fat. In a weight loss study done, each group was monitored closely and provided food which caused them to be in a caloric deficit. One group was only allowed to have 5 1/2 hours or sleep and the other 8 hours. Each group did lose weight but the group with less sleep lost 70% of weight from lean body mass (muscle). The group with adequate sleep only lost 30% of weight from lean body mass. Therefore proving sleep can help maintain lean tissue (the weight you want to keep).
Contrary to what some people believe, if we stay awake longer we do NOT burn more calories as sleep is actually an intensely metabolic state for brain and body. In fact if were lacking sleep were likely to be more sedentary and less willing to exercise.
The more tired we are the more hungry we are as well. Lack of sleep actually makes our hunger hormones irregular (leptin and ghrelin). This makes us think we’re more hungry then we actually are. Throw in there also more time we have in the day to eat if we’re not sleeping.
Sleep enhances and maintains a flourishing microbiome within the gut which helps with proper bodily functions including the digestion process.
Lack of sleep also throws our emotions and rationale out of whack causing us to emotionally eat. You may have heard the term “hangry” before, probably coined from someone who was very tired combined with not eating in a while.
So here are all the factors lined out for you if you have not been getting adequate sleep, which can cause either your body to either resist weight loss or continue to gain weight:
-body is stingy about “fat” loss (can lose muscle rather than fat)
-tired, lazy, more sedentary which equals less calories burned
-increased caloric intakes due to time spent awake
-hunger hormones irregular causing increase in caloric intake
-emotionally labile causing a decrease in impulse control and making more rash food decisions
-decrease in food satisfaction as well causing a bad relationship with food
These are just the summarized key take aways from the book I read and if you wanted more detail on the research you can read the book for yourselves. So what does the book recommend for a better night sleep?
Here is a list of non-pharmalogical ideas to enhance or get a better nights sleep (book highly does NOT recommend sleep aides for a number of different reasons):
-Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption especially after a certain time of day (preferably after noon).
-Limit screen time (phones, computers, TVs, iPads) within an hour or two before bed.
-Dim lights in the evening and sleep in the dark (can utilize sleep mask).
-Have your room cold or cool at night.
-Avoid napping in the evening.
-Mentally decelerate before bed (spend time with loved ones, meditate, read).
-Avoid clock watching or turn clock away once settled into bed.
-If all else fails and sleep is becoming a huge ongoing problem for you consider trying cognitive behavioural therapy.
Happy Sleeping Everybody!