Is Sleep the Secret Weapon You Need in the Battle of the Bulge?

Is Sleep the Secret Weapon You Need in the Battle of the Bulge?

So, we said goodbye to National Sleep Month and its focus on better sleep. But we believe that sleep should be a priority every month, and so we will continue to bring you details on how important a good night’s rest is in all parts of your life. Good deal, right? And we’re going to start off a new month of sleep awareness by talking about the important role that it plays in weight loss. Yes, really! There’s always been a debate raging over the best way to achieve a healthy weight, with the most common advice being something like “move more and eat less to lose weight.” But what if we told you that research has proven that it’s not that simple. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that over 35% of Americans are sleep deprived, and that almost the exact same number of us are obese. Coincidence? Nope, it’s a connection!

Your Sleep Cycle Controls What You Eat

Not getting the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night has been shown to reduce the beneficial effects of dieting. One study regarding the link between adequate sleep and weight loss has shown that dieters that were sleep deprived lost half the amount of body fat compared to those that were getting enough sleep. Those dieters not getting enough rest also reported that they felt hungrier on a more frequent basis, less full after meals, and an overall lack of energy inhibiting their ability to exercise. Yikes!

Lack of Sleep Cranks Up Your Cravings

Many of us have come to believe that we can control what we want to eat, and use sheer willpower to overcome our cravings. Guess again. Hunger is controlled by our hormones, and when we are missing out on sleep, they go haywire and cause us to long for the less-than-healthy foods that we know we should avoid. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies produce an overabundance of cortisol – the hormone that is linked to both stress and weight gain. Cortisol also kicks the reward centers in the brain into gear, causing you to want more food as a means of comforting yourself. So what’s the bottom line? Not getting enough sleep equals constantly feeling hungry and the desire to reach for bigger portions. Especially when it comes to the salty, sweet, fatty, or carb-laden goodies that we all know are just plain bad for us.

Sleep Loss is the Gym’s Worst Enemy

It’s not just your diet that’s impacted by a lack of sleep – your workouts are affected, as well, and not in a good way. Lack of sleep has been shown to be the enemy of building muscle, which is what helps you to burn fat. Scientists have found that not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night decreases your body’s ability to build new muscles and can even cause muscle loss, which can lead to a higher chance of injury, keeping you out of the gym at all. Not good when you’re trying to lose weight! Lack of sleep has also been shown to make it harder for your body to recover from exercise by inhibiting the production of growth hormones, which are a natural source of fat-burning and anti-aging. And that means that aches and pains will keep you out of the gym and further from your weight loss goals. If you’re someone that doesn’t look forward to going to the gym to being with, doing it when you are in an active sleep debt can take your workouts from unenjoyable to out-and-out unbearable. Sleep deprivation makes everything that you do more challenging – and that goes double for exercise.

Prioritize Sleep to Win at Weight Loss

With all of the links between sleep loss and weight gain, it’s hard to deny that getting better sleep is one of the best things that you can do for your body. Especially your waistline! And with the connection of sleep deprivation to serious health concerns, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart failure, obesity, and cognitive difficulties, it’s easy to see why so many health professionals are urging their patients to get more sleep. While there’s no “magic number” when it comes to getting the right amount of sleep for you in your weight loss journey, it’s safe to say that the best rule of thumb is going for the recommended average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. It might not seem like spending more time in bed is the right thing to do when you’re trying to be more active and lose those extra pounds, but some extra sleep could make all the difference, and mean a sure success, versus a dismal failure.
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