Sleep Better With Runtastic Pt. 9: Sleep And Weight Loss
Losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution. But, how can we succeed? We start browsing weight loss guides and online forums or ask our best friends for advice. We end up resolving to eat healthier and exercise more. However, there’s one thing missing for a successful weight loss equation: sleep.
If you, too, are planning to shed a few pounds now that a new year has begun, you should not only try to “eat healthy” and “exercise more”, but also to “sleep better” and there’s a connect between sleep and weight loss.
“Sleep and appetite are closely connected,” says Jim Hill, spokesman for the American Society for Nutrition. Studies confirmed that one who sleeps badly or too little in the long run is more prone to being overweight than those who get deep and sufficient sleep.
The bottom line is: the less we sleep, the more we eat. Two hormones, leptin and cortisol, are responsible for this effect. A low leptin level leads to increased hunger. Cortisol, on the other hand, is also called the stress hormone. It stimulates our appetite and food intake. Chronical non-sleepers usually have high cortisol and low leptine levels – leading to increased hunger and food intake.
The New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center found in a study that people who suffer from a lack of sleep consume an average of 300 calories more per day than those who knocked out a good night’s sleep. Psychologists sustain that tired individuals also tend to make bad food choices, that is unhealthy, fatty food, more often. “The more time you spend awake, the higher the probability of you sneaking to the fridge for some fast food or sweets. Food is soothing,” says Dr. Breus (author of Lose Weight through Better Sleep).
This is where the vicious cycle starts. Bad sleep makes us feel tired during the day, which leads to increased hunger and, consequently, to a higher food intake and unhealthy choices. Constant weight gain, on the other hand, negatively affects sleep quality. Even 3 to 4 extra unneccesary pounds can significantly reduce sleep quality, as additional fat cells around neck and throat make breathing more difficult. Possible consequences are snoring and sleep apnea which reduce sleep quality (especially in back sleepers) and affect REM sleep. During the REM phase, however, is when we burn most calories, says Dr. Breus.
Now, we’re left with another chicken and egg dilemma… what was there first? Did lack of sleep and fatigue lead to weight gain, or does being overweight mean that you don’t get enough sleep?
Whether it actually is as easy as getting your weight under control as soon as you start sleeping well is still to be proven, Jim Hill also underlines.
However, it’s a fact that sleep and weight are connected. If you consciously make time for enough sleep (7 to 9 hours per day), losing weight will definitely be easier than when spending your days hustling, stressed, tired and hungry.