You’re counting calories, eating more veggies and exercising more. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do to achieve a healthier weight. But something’s missing. And you’re tired, in fact, you’re outright sleepy in the middle of the day. Are you getting enough sleep? Is lack of sleep sabotaging your healthy weight plan?
You might not give this much thought, but getting enough sleep has a direct impact on your metabolism, your blood sugar levels and your ability to resist temptation when junk food is available.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Younger people need 8-10 hours, and older adults should sleep about 7-9 hours every night.
Here’s one important way in which sleep affects your eating: resisting temptation. Your brain needs sufficient sleep to help you manage impulse control, judgment, emotional responses and decision-making. If you walk into your kitchen when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to reach for the cookies instead of the basket of oranges.
There are other ways in which a better sleep routine can help you control your weight:
- Stops late-night snacking. If you’re up late, you get hungry! You’re more likely to be looking for that fourth meal. In addition, eating most of your calories later in the day makes you gain weight.
- REM sleep is when your brain goes to gym. Yes, you actually burn calories while you’re sleeping. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is the sleep stage when your body burns more calories than during other stages of sleep. Disrupt your REM and you just burned fewer calories.
- You burn more fat when you’re well-rested. In a study, well-rested dieters lost more fat than sleep-deprived ones. Half of the weight loss was from fat in those who got enough zzzz’s, while only ¼ of the weight loss was from fat in those who didn’t get enough sleep.
- Helps you shop for healthier food. Even the most disciplined person will waver at the grocery store when they’re exhausted. However, when you’re well-rested you’re more likely to stick to your guns.
- While you sleep, your hormones keep working. Leptin is a hormone that makes you feel full. Getting enough sleep keeps leptin levels normal. Poor sleep raises cortisol levels. This stress hormone increases hunger and interferes with fat metabolism.
- If you’re engaging in a new exercise program for weight control or just for overall health, you need focus. Getting enough sleep helps you learn better and also helps you recall what you’ve learned. Studies have shown that we take longer to respond, tend to space out more frequently and make more errors when we sleep less than six hours.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns regarding sleep, dieting and exercise. Finding the right balance in all of those areas can make a difference in the success of your weight control program.