An Essential Guide to Understanding the Key link between Sleep & Weight Management
A healthy sleep habit helps maintain a smooth functioning circadian rhythm and as a result an optimum body weight. But a loss of sleep has proven to have a direct impact on excessive weight gain while increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure, sugar and other ailments too.
The link between sleep and weight gain is more direct than you might think it to be.
Let’s take a look, how & why –
1) Sleep & Your Brain:
The frontal lobe of your brain rules decision-making and self-control. A lack of sleep dulls your brain functions and influences the way you think and make choices such that it becomes challenging to resist food that has high levels of sugar, carbohydrates and fats. A tired brain renders you susceptible to making poor food choices, leading to a burning craving for fast food, energy drinks or desserts. This happens because the reward center of your brain feels very stimulated by such foods when you deprive yourself of sleep. It has been found that the additional calories were almost always consumed after a dinner, and more so when people stayed awake watching shows on the t.v. or the web.
2) Sleep & Your Body Metabolism:
When you deprive yourself of essential hours of sleep your body metabolism slows down and goes for a toss. Late night snacking spikes up your calorie intake which does not get burnt or used up as energy thereby retaining excessive fat. Poor sleep makes your body produce more than usual levels of cortisol and insulin. A high amount of these prompts your body to retain fat making you overweight. Insulin in particular is responsible for converting sugar in your body into energy. But when your body metabolism takes a hit, cells become insulin resistant and more insulin is produced to compensate. This additional insulin makes a person hungrier and leads to calories being converted to fat. Type 2 diabetes and weight gain are typically linked to insulin resistance.
Also, high stress levels lead to a higher level of cortisol which in turn increases appetite.
3) The Hormones:
A lot is determined by the levels of 2 hormones in our body – Ghrelin and Leptin.
Ghrelin signals your body to pick more food which Leptin tells your body that it feels full and has had enough to eat. When we skip sleep, the body produces more ghrelin and less leptin leading you to gorge on excessive and calorie high foods. Overall, a poor sleeper tends to have a higher BMI which means they are overweight, considering their average height.
4) Quality versus Quantity Sleep:
An average healthy person needs to get a minimum of 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep each night for healthy functioning of the body. Having said that, it is possible to get more hours of sleep but also less quality sleep due to other underlying disorders like stress, pain, etc. One can correct this with small steps like avoiding caffeine post afternoon hours, finding time to exercise and choosing a lighter and a healthier meal at dinner. Heavier meals in the night can increase a risk of heartburn which can make you lose sleep.
If however you wake up feeling stressed or still sleepy despite getting a good no. of hours of sleep, consult your doctor or a sleep specialist, they will help you evaluate and tackle underlying disorders that might be disrupting your sleep.
5) A few other things:
a) People who sleep less number of hours are most likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and weight gain
b) A study found that lesser hours of sleep increased the likelihood of obesity by 89% in children and 55% in adults.
c) Other disorders like sleep apnea also get worse with gained weight.
d) Poor sleep also causes muscle loss due to decreased metabolic rates.
e) Often, a lack of sleep dampens your motivation to make time for exercise due to fatigue. Alternatively, engaging in any physical activity without availing enough sleep is also not advisable.
We live in times that demand and expect us to live life in the fast lane. Unfortunately, a lot of youngsters are succumbing to a range of lifestyle diseases very early on.
What may start off as a pride in pulling an all-nighter to study or work, or an innocent indulgence in late night snacking or desserts while watching your favorite movies and shows can soon become a vicious cycle – you sleep less, you gain more weight and then with an increase in weight, the more difficulty you find falling asleep. However, establishing healthy habits with regular sleep and mindful intentions can help you avoid all these issues and nip them in the bud.
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