I love sleep. Like really, really love it. I wake up in the morning and often my first thought is “I can’t wait until bedtime tonight”. In fact, unlike 90% of America, I prioritize sleep. Big paper to write? I’ll get up early and work on it. Favorite TV show on? DVR was invented for people like me. Friends meeting up? Well, maybe if I’m home before ten. I love sleep so much in fact that I spent over a year researching it for my Master’s degree. Today I bring you some of the reason’s sleep could help you lose weight.
According to sleep researchers, adults need 7-9 quality hours of sleep per night. I know most of you just said something along the lines of: “7-9 hours!?! Are you crazy! I’m lucky if I get 6 with my busy life!” But going to bed a little earlier will not only improve your mood, health, and productivity, it will also move that scale in the right direction; and here’s why:
Your hormones are tricky little things. They regulate pretty much everything in your body, and we will do several posts in the future explaining some of them more in depth. Simply put, lots of hormones are released throughout the night when you sleep, and follow closely with your circadian rhythm. Losing sleep, or even not having a set sleep schedule, can cause hormonal imbalances. Your stress hormones (think cortisol) increase with sleep loss3. Unfortunately for you, cortisol is directly correlated to increases in visceral fat. Research suggests that in periods of sleep deprivation ghrelin levels increase1. Ghrelin is a hormone that works closely with your metabolism and increased levels are associated with reduced energy expenditure, increased hunger and fat retention, and increased glucose production. We’ll touch on one more hormone: insulin. If you know anyone with Diabetes, you have heard of insulin. Well, it turns out that not enough sleep (less than 5 hours a night) causes your body to create an insulin resistant state2. This is the same thing that happens to individuals with diabetes, your body is no longer going to use the carbs and sugars that you are feeding it.
Counting macronutrients and calories are both a critical part to most fat loss plans, but a recent study out of the University of Chicago showed that after two groups consumed the same number of calories, the group that slept for 8.5 hours lost significantly more body fat than those who only slept 5.5 hours nightly1. Even more important, the group that didn’t get as much sleep lost more fat-free mass (60% increase in fat-free weight loss: AKA precious muscle!)
Appetite and Cravings
Next time you don’t get a good night’s sleep take note: you will want to eat your arm off the next day..or at least a big burger. Just one bad night’s sleep has been shown to impair the way the frontal lobe of your brain works. This is the area that is responsible for decision-making and response to rewards. It turns out that these high-level brain areas become blunted when you don’t sleep enough and cause you to actually crave high calorie foods4.
Depriving yourself of sleep also strips you of the energy that you need to be productive the next day. It’s been reported that there can be up to a 400kcal/day difference in energy expenditure with shorter sleep duration compared to someone who gets a good 8 hours1.
So what does this mean? It means that skipping out on a few hours of sleep even one night may leave you with a little extra flab, or at least a more difficult time shedding it off to reveal the FITsique you have been dreaming of! So the next time you want to stay up and watch that last TV show to relax yourself after a long day, try going to bed (after all that’s what DVRs are for!). Your body, mind, AND the scale will thank you.
Readers: Do you have a bedtime? How many hours of sleep do you get every night?
1.Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 5;153(7):435-41. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD
2. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Oct 16;157(8):549-57. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-157-8-201210160-00005. Impaired insulin signaling in human adipocytes after experimental sleeprestriction: a randomized, crossover study. Broussard JL, Ehrmann DA, Van Cauter E, Tasali E, Brady MJ.
3. J Clin Neurol. 2012 Jun;8(2):146-50. doi: 10.3988/jcn.2012.8.2.146. Epub 2012 Jun 29. Adverse effects of 24 hours of sleep deprivation on cognition and stress hormones. Joo EY, Yoon CW, Koo DL, Kim D, Hong SB.