Why lack of sleep is making you fat

Ask anyone the best way to lose weight and, inevitably, they’ll tell you to watch what you eat and get some exercise. As valuable as this advice is, there is more to losing weight than what you do at the gym or the kitchen. Somewhat ironically, one of the most important things you can do to help you lose weight requires very little effort at all; sleep. Lack of sleep can really make losing weight harder than it needs to be and can also be the cause of weight gain.

Many of us are sleep deprived. The pressures of work and home mean that every minute is precious and, subsequently, a large percentage of the population does not get enough sleep.

 

Late nights and early mornings mean than many adults get considerably less than the recommended eight-hours of sleep per night.

 

The symptoms of sleep deprivation are obvious – you feel tired – and it’s all too easy to mask these symptoms with coffee and caffeine-laden energy drinks but not getting enough sleep can cause weight gain and inhibit weight loss.

 

Lack of sleep can cause weight gain and/or inhibit weight loss for several reasons…

 

When you don’t get enough sleep, you are much more likely to try and restore your energy by snacking on sugary foods like donuts or lollies, or chocolate bars or high energy sugar-laden bars, or over indulge in carbohydrates. These high-sugar foods quickly elevate your blood glucose levels. Elevated blood glucose triggers the release of insulin from your pancreas which will then cause your blood glucose levels to plummet. The subsequent drop in blood glucose leaves you feeling hungry and more tired and so you’ll soon feel like you need another sugary pick-me-up.

 

Once you are on this high/low blood sugar roller coaster, it can be hard to get off. Sugary foods are packed with unwanted calories and insulin inhibits fat burning while promoting fat storage. Getting enough sleep will prevent such an energy crisis and reduce your dependence on sugary foods. And as for most typical breakfast cereals that are packed with sugar – don’t eat ‘em! Most cereals are nothing more than junk food in disguise so to ensure you start your day the right way, go for real porridge oats or, better still, a protein-based breakfast like eggs.

 

Sleep is also vital for hormonal optimization; hormones being chemical messengers that tell your cells, organs and bodily systems how to function. Two of the most important hormones relating to fat loss are leptin and ghrelin.

Lack of sleep can elevate ghrelin levels while lowering leptin levels – a hormonal recipe for increased appetite. Leptin is produced by your fat cells and tells you when you are full while ghrelin is produced by cells in the gastrointestinal tract and tells you when to eat. Disruption of your leptin/ghrelin balance will cause you to eat more and that inevitably leads to weight gain.

Your body also uses sleep for growth, recovery and repair after exercise and it’s while you sleep that your body produces the majority of its anabolic (muscle building) hormones, specifically testosterone and growth hormone. Even if your exercise goal isn’t muscle building, these two hormones are essential for ensuring you get the best possible results from your workouts.

Insufficient sleep will also result in elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic or muscle destroying hormone associated with stress. Loss of muscle will lower your baseline metabolic rate which makes losing fat harder. It will also reduce your ability to exercise and stimulates fat storage.

 

Not getting enough sleep can also chip away at your willpower to exercise and cook healthy, waist-friendly food. Hitting the gym before or after work is much less appealing if you are tired from lack of shut eye and who wants to spend time cooking when energy levels are low and a pizza is only a phone call away?

 

It’s clear then that sleep has a big part to play in weight loss, fitness and exercise and most people need more of it. But how do you get a good night’s sleep each and every night? Good question!

To get your sleep back on track, follow these simple tips…

 

  • Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Work back from when you have to get up and make sure you are in bed around eight hours before you are due to arise.
  • No TV, laptops, smartphones or electronic tablets in the bedroom – they are distracting and can stop you turning off the light and going to sleep. Also try to avoid using such devices one hour prior to bed.
  • Use a white noise generator to block out extraneous sounds such as traffic, noisy neighbours or barking dogs.
  • Avoid caffeine for three or so hours prior to going to sleep. For those of you that are more caffeine-sensitive, you may need to cut out caffeine earlier. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry but avoid also eating too close to bedtime.
  • Do not rely on alcohol to help you sleep. While it does “knock you out”, it won’t result in a good night of natural, restful sleep.
  • If you have trouble sleeping for more than a few nights, speak to your doctor as there may be an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated. However, do not allow yourself to become reliant on sleeping tablets as, like alcohol, drug-induced sleep is not as natural and can leave you feeling groggy the next day.
  • Take Magnesium – it helps calm your central nervous system and promotes restful sleep
  • Avoid any form of light including thin curtains, gaps in blinds or even digital alarm clocks. Light can mess with your natural sleep rhythm. Consider getting blackout blinds are wearing a sleep mask.

Never underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep and remember; just because you can get by on less sleep, doesn’t mean that is optimal. Sleep is the unsung hero of weight loss so make sure YOU are getting enough vitamin zzzzzzz!
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AUTHOR

Hi, my name is Dinny Morris. I’m a personal trainer and in sunny Sydney, Australia.

I work with men and women at all levels of their physical development, from overweight couch potatoes who want to get in shape, to professional athletes and natural bodybuilders who want to beef up strength and body mass.

* Testimonials found on Dinny Morris Fitness have been sent to me by past and present customers and may not reflect the typical customer’s experience and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results. The testimonials are meant to be a showcase of the best results personal training with me can produce, and should not be taken as the results a typical user will get.