How lack of sleep affects your weight


How lack of sleep affects your weight

If getting enough sleep seems to be an elusive stranger in the night resulting in tiredness and irritability the next day, add to this another consequence – a bigger waistline.  Many studies have shown lack of sleep to be associated with an increase in gaining weight.   Failing to obtain sufficient sleep can make it even more of a struggle for some individuals in dealing with weight management.

Lack of adequate sleep is common

Sleep insufficiency is increasingly seen as a threat to public health.  Sleep inadequacy is linked to motor vehicle accidents, industrial disasters, and medical and occupational errors.  It is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders compromising the quality of life and adversely affecting their health. 

The National Sleep Foundation advises that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.  Most Americans average about 6 hours each night during the work week.  You are considered sleep deprived it you routinely sleep less than 5 hours a night. 

Ways insufficient sleeps affects weight gain

·      Increases food intake

If you are chronically sleep deprived, your sleepiness may be registering to you as being hungry.  Often when we feel sluggish, we tend to seek out food to give us a boost of energy.  If this sluggish feeling is happening several times a day, our caloric intake rapidly adds up. 

There are also two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, whose levels are affected by lack of sleep.  These two hormones are critical to whether we may gain too much weight or not.  Leptin tells us when to stop eating while ghrelin tells us it’s time to eat.  Lacking sufficient zzzz’s causes leptin levels to go down while ghrelin levels go up.   

·      Decreases energy expenditure

Chronic sleepiness leads to a lack of energy and feeling exhausted.  This means you won’t feel like going to the gym to work out or go for a long walk.  The lack of physical activity can lead to a decrease in metabolism with less calories being burned.  Feeling tired throughout the day can mean you may opt to choose more pre-packaged foods, higher in fat and calories instead of fixing a healthier home-cooked meal. 

·       Foods high in fat and sugar are preferred

Here’s a twist on having a sleep debt – it can alter brain chemicals making individuals unable to resist snacks, particularly for sweet and salty foods.  A 2015 study in the journal Sleep found sleep-deprived individuals had 33% higher levels of a chemical compound which increases the pleasant feelings of food, especially of sweet or salty high-fat foods.   Sweet and salty foods tend to be higher in calories which will make it harder for a person craving these foods to keep weight off. 

·      Caffeine  

This stimulant is believed to interfere with sleep by blocking adenosine receptors.  It’s best to consume caffeine containing products early in the day before noon allowing about 6 to 8 hours of caffeine’s affect to wear off.  Caffeine can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline levels. 

·      Alcohol

Even though alcohol may induce a sedating effect, it can disrupt rapid eye movement (REM) sleep important for the restorative part of our sleep cycle.  

·      Large meals

Eating a large meal close to bedtime makes it tough to fall asleep as it can cause indigestion.  If you drink too many liquids during the evening there’s a good chance you will be up frequently during the night to urinate. 

Other factors besides food affecting sleep:

·      Nicotene

This stimulant will cause lighter-than-normal sleep patterns.

·      Exercising at night  

Some people can exercise late at night and have no problem falling asleep.  But for others evening exercise can delay the release of melatonin which helps us fall asleep.

·      Chronic pain

Having painful conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis will disturb sleep.

·      Psychological disorders

Those suffering from depression may have disruptions of RE M sleep bringing on insomnia.

·      Environment

Keeping all electronics out of the bedroom (TV, computer, cell phones) along with reducing noise, little to no light, and with a comfortable temperature will help you fall and stay asleep.   

Putting into practice the advice given in this article can go a long ways towards meeting your weight loss goals.  Another solution that could work for the long term in managing weight is being able to find an expert who can meet your different goals and needs.  Many individuals seeking to achieve a healthier body weight can benefit immensely from working one on one with a nutrition expert such as a registered dietitian who will provide scientific evidenced-based nutrition and weight loss information who will monitor and track your progress.