It’s not uncommon for many of us to seek out new ways we can reduce our fat levels. Maybe you’ve been less active lately and have accumulated some stomach fat, or you’re just getting older and it’s more work to keep weight gain at bay. Online there’s a whole host of new claims trending each week, promising to deliver results by consuming an obscure type of food or doing a seemingly unrelated activity. It’s frustrating to wade through these fads with little success. If only losing weight was as easy as falling asleep…
Whilst good sleep isn’t the answer to all your weight concerns, and you’re not going to shed the pounds overnight just by adjusting your sleep, it is a vital area for consideration in losing weight. It’s widely accepted that besides diet and exercise, sleep is the most important factor in successful weight loss. And yet it is often an area of our lives that’s significantly overlooked, especially considering we spend between a quarter and a third of our lives asleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults in the UK get 6 hours sleep per night on average, although they recommend 7 to 9 hours is optimal.
We take a deeper look into the science behind how quality sleep can make losing weight easier, brought to you by the popular online pharmacy Pharmica.
What’s the Connection?
Sleep is undoubtedly linked to our weight, and there are numerous reasons to connect the two. Purely observationally, whilst sleep duration and quality has decreased in the past 50 years, the rate of obesity has only been going up. Studies looking into lack of sleep have made the connection with increased risk of metabolic disorders, weight gain, and other chronic health conditions. We break these down and explore them below.
How Sleep Affects Weight
Most of us get food cravings to some degree, but will power aside, studies show that sleep has a significant physical effect on our appetite. The hormones ghrelin, which stimulates the appetite, and leptin, which suppress appetite, fluctuate depending on time of day. If we get poor sleep or go to bed at inconsistent times, this confuses our circadian rhythm, and the release of these hormones gets scrambled, prompting us to be hungry at incorrect times. In addition, those with bad sleep quality and regularity actually have more ghrelin and less leptin present in total, meaning it will take more eating for them to be satiated. Going to bed at the same time every night, and getting at least 7 hours of sleep will help to combat this irregularity.
We’ve evolved biologically to prefer sweet and salty flavours, typical of high calorie and unhealthy foods. With the easy accessibility of almost any type of food fairly cheaply from supermarkets in developed countries, our willpower is one of the only things keeping us on the straight and narrow if our appetite is larger than our base metabolism. However, when deprived of enough sleep, our ability to make healthy food choices is significantly reduced, with one study finding participants chose snacks with 50% more calories on average. Insufficient sleep makes it harder for us to resist temptation when it comes to selecting our meal and snack preferences, veering towards higher calorie food and therefore making weight loss that bit more difficult.
Metabolism and Insulin
If we don’t get a full night’s sleep, our stress hormone cortisol experiences a temporary spike, and our body goes into energy conservation mode, enabling fat to be stored more easily. When insufficient sleep occurs night in and night out, our basal metabolism will be reduced in the longer term, meaning more of our total calories will be stored as excess fat. When sleep duration is low, our bodies struggle to process insulin, leading to less fat being processed in the bloodstream and therefore more fat stored overall.
Waking and sleeping at regular times each night and getting enough hours of sleep in total will therefore be beneficial to your weight loss journey. The amount of deep sleep you get is important too, something you can increase by not exercising within an hour before bed, and keeping your phone away from your bedside to reduce blue light exposure before sleeping. To improve your quality of sleep, especially if you suffer from insomnia or chronic lack of sleep, sleep supplements such as Nytol can be taken to encourage falling asleep quicker and reducing disruptions during the night.