Avoiding weight gain has long been related to healthy dieting and regular exercise. However, more and more research has shown that a third and equally important factor to healthy weight management is adequate sleep.
It turns out that counting sheep—on top of calories—has a lot of benefits to battling weight gain. EurekAlert revealed recent studies showed that shaving off just 30 minutes of the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night can have drastic, long-term consequences for body weight and metabolism. The researchers highlight the importance of sleep in today’s 24/7 society. Here are several ways sleep affects your weight and overall health.
How Sleep Can Affect Your Weight And Health
Sleeping Gives You Energy To Take On The Day Ahead
Skimping on sleep often means feeling groggy and irritable the following morning, with some people even feeling more physical symptoms like migraines. It is common knowledge that lack of energy is a direct result of skimping on sleep, and the more sleep-deprived a person is, the more lethargic they will feel. This means that not being able to get enough sleep keeps you from accomplishing everything you need to do in a day, including exercise.
Sleep and exercise go hand-in-hand, explains fitness expert Jim White in this blog post on Leesa. A good night’s rest maximizes the effects of exercise, helping you take on both busy days and regular workouts.
Sleep Deprivation Wreaks Havoc In Your Hormones
A lack of sleep has also been found to increase levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and decreased levels of the satiety hormone leptin. This means that not getting enough sleep can lead to overeating and weight gain, according to studies conducted by Stanford University.
In addition to these two hormones, sleep deprivation can also increase levels of endocannabinoid in the body. These hormones are responsible for eating for pleasure, or hedonic eating, making sleep-deprived people more likely to not only eat more in general, but also to eat unhealthy food.
A Lack Of Sleep Impairs Your Decision-Making Skills
In addition, sleep deprivation has been proven to impair cognitive functions. The BBC reports that lack of sleep results to far less activities in the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain—areas that are crucial for problem-solving, memory, and decision-making.
This tendency is further illustrated in other studies on weight gain and sleep, which reveals that sleep-deprived people respond more positively to high-calorie junk foods. Along with the reduced activity in the parts of the brain responsible for rational decisions, sleep-deprived people are found to be more likely to opt for fattening foods like potato chips and sweets.
Sleep Deprivation Slows Down Your Metabolism
Lastly, not getting enough sleep turns your body on survival mode, explains the Scientific American. On top of wreaking havoc on appetite hormones, sleep deprivation slows metabolism down because the body is trying to maintain its energy resources. This leads to your body storing more fat, and makes it far easier for you to gain weight than to lose it.
Humans spend nearly a third of their lives in sleep. While people often think of sleep as downtime, it’s actually a pretty important time in our days to feed our body with the rest it needs to promote health and wellbeing, making it just as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat. This is why the best approach to weight gain is always three-fold, striking a balance between good exercise, healthy diet, and adequate sleep.