Think about how good you feel after a full night’s sleep — well rested, more alert, in a better mood and ready to face the day. Here’s another benefit to getting enough regular, quality sleep: It regulates your metabolism and can help you lose weight.
Did you know that recent studies have brought to light that weight loss and weight gain are related to the amount of sleep one gets?
Sleep regulates metabolism
In a study conducted by Mayo Clinic professor of medicine and cardiovascular disease Dr. Virend Somers and his colleagues, it was found that sleep is an important regulator of metabolism and energy expenditure. When you are sleep-deprived, hormones that regulate metabolism and increase hunger are affected, stimulating an increase in consuming calories. The likely result is weight gain.
Quality sleep can curb cravings
In another study, researchers from St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University in New York shed some light on the link between our length and phase of sleep, and hunger and weight gain. They found that the length of time we sleep is important, but sleep composition — the time and percentage of overall sleep spent in each stage — is associated with decreased metabolic rate, increased hunger and increased intake of calories, specifically from fat and carbohydrates, which can, in turn, lead to weight gain.
Sleep is a prescription for weight loss
Conversely, maintaining a regular sleep schedule (an average of eight hours per night) helps regulate your body’s metabolism and decreases the desire to overeat. The link between sleep and obesity has led many doctors, including those in the Canadian Obesity Network, to include more sleep as part their suggested weight loss programs.
Doctors Jean-Philippe Chaput at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and Angelo Tremblay of Laval University are quoted in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, as saying, “The solution to weight loss is not as simple as ‘eat less, move more, sleep more’. … However, an accumulating body of evidence suggests that sleeping habits should not be overlooked when prescribing a weight-reduction program to a patient with obesity.”
Add sleep to your weight loss program
Now that you have some understanding about the relationship between sleep, hunger and weight gain, here are some things you can do to help ensure you sleep better and maybe lose a few pounds in the process.
- Avoid watching TV or using the computer late at night and too close to bedtime.
- Don’t consume too much caffeine, especially in the evening.
- Do not take medication that may affect the quality and duration of your sleep.
- If there’s something particularly stressful going on in your life that is causing worry and anxiety, talk to someone about it and add some stress-reducing activities to your day such as yoga or meditation.
- Make sure you’re exercising enough, especially outdoors, to help alleviate some of that stress and tension.
Beware of social jet lag
With our too-late work hours, too much time in front of computer screens and going to sleep too late, we are listening to our social clocks more than our physiological clocks, causing a greater sleep gap known as “social jet lag.” As our natural circadian rhythms get more out of whack, we stay up later and feel chronically tired during the day.
That gap between how much sleep we need and how much we’re getting is contributing to the worldwide obesity epidemic. Make a resolution this year to give yourself an important gift: more regular, restorative sleep. Doing so can help you maintain a healthy body weight, avoid many health problems, feel better and live a happier, more productive life.