As a fitness coach juggling a million things, I totally get it. Two hours of sleep lost to Netflix? Been there, done that. Who needs sleep when you’ve got deadlines to meet, gains to make, and the latest season of your favourite show to binge-watch, right? Our body follows a natural circadian rhythm which is why it is essential we get our 7-8 hours of sleep. And we humans are, in fact, the only species that trade off sleep for work & other pleasures.
So let’s face it, we could all be doing better with our sleep. Especially when you’re trying to lose weight. Confused? Let me explain.
The unsung hero of health: Sleep
Sleep always takes the hit when it comes to our priorities in a day. And if you’re constantly stuck in a cycle of sleep deprivation, not only does it mess with your body’s inner workings like your cardiorespiratory and immune systems, but it also has a sneaky way of increasing your chances of getting injured or falling sick.
How? When you don’t get enough sleep, it impairs the recovery process for muscles, tendons, and ligaments, leaving them slower to heal. Sleep deprivation also affects your reaction time and can make you feel fatigued and sluggish, increasing the likelihood of picking up small injuries or niggles in the gym. Essentially, less sleep means slower recovery, impaired reaction time, and a higher risk of injury due to fatigue and an overworked central nervous system.
And guess what? Lack of sleep is also the culprit behind stubborn pounds that refuse to budge. Let me tell you how.
The late-night snack attack
Turns out, sleep restriction doesn’t just make us cranky and reach for the snooze button every morning. It also turns us into calorie-munching monsters. I’m talking about devouring an extra 385 calories a day.
But wait, there’s more! People who are sleep-deprived are not just content with extra calories; they want those midnight snacks too. Researchers found that participants in a sleep-deprivation study couldn’t resist the temptation, snacking their way to an additional 250 calories per day. It’s like our bodies are plotting against us while we’re lost in dreamland.
The secret to losing weight
Turns out that the quality and quantity of your sleep can have a huge impact on various aspects of your well-being. I’m listing some of which below:
- Lack of sleep impairs decision-making and impulse control, leading to increased food cravings and difficulty resisting unhealthy temptations. When your brain is sleep-deprived, it becomes more susceptible to making bad choices, such as giving in to that second slice of cake.
Research shows that inadequate sleep increases cravings for energy-dense foods, which are typically high in carbohydrates and fats. A review of 18 studies found that sleep deprivation not only leads to cravings but also causes people to consume larger portion sizes of all foods. Additionally, individuals who are sleep-deprived tend to feel less satisfied after eating their meals.
- Sleep is essential for the brain, similar to how nutrition is necessary for the body. During sleep, the brain undergoes crucial processes that promote cognitive function, memory consolidation, and overall mental well-being. Just like a well-balanced diet nourishes the body, quality sleep nourishes the brain.
- Sleep deprivation also has a negative impact on metabolic health. Within just four days of insufficient sleep, the body’s ability to process insulin, a hormone responsible for converting sugar and other foods into energy, becomes impaired. This condition is known as insulin resistance, where the body struggles to effectively utilise insulin. Insulin resistance is a significant risk factor for the development of conditions like diabetes and obesity, highlighting the importance of prioritising adequate sleep for optimal metabolic function.
Believe it or not, sleep is a huge component of muscle recovery. During sleep, your body releases growth hormones that repair and build muscles. It also regulates inflammation and replenishes energy stores. Without the proper amount of sleep, muscle recovery is slower, & muscle soreness increases.
If that doesn’t change your mind, then let me tell you about its negative impact on insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance can promote weight gain and hinder weight loss efforts. Furthermore, sleep deprivation often leads to fatigue and low energy levels, making it harder to engage in physical activity and maintain a consistent exercise routine. So, if you’re aiming to shed those extra pounds, don’t neglect the importance of a good night’s sleep as part of your weight loss strategy. It can contribute significantly to better appetite control, improved metabolism, and overall weight management success.
The power of sleeping in
So, where’s the silver lining? Well, a group of researchers decided to take matters into their own hands. Rather than subjecting participants to sleep deprivation boot camp, they explored what more sleep does to you.
The result? Participants managed to eat around 270 calories less per day. These well-rested individuals ended up losing more weight than they did on lesser sleep. This is because the subjects who got more sleep were less hungrier than the others; showing the connection between sleep & appetite.
The point I’m trying to make is get your sleep & get it properly. I know you’ll roll your eyes but 7-8 hours of sleep is what most people need. It is something that is backed by several studies countless times.
Some practical tips you can follow:
People tend to believe that they can pop a pill (melatonin tablet), which will help improve their sleep, however without other sleep hygiene factors it will do no good. So, the last thing I’m going to touch upon is sleep hygiene. This could be a blog of its own (& let me know if you’re interested in reading that). Here are a few tips to make you sleep better.
- Set aside 30 minutes before bed to unwind and chill. Picture yourself on a tropical beach or meditate like a monk. Whatever floats your sleepy boat!
- Have a relatively duller stimulus around you if you can’t fall asleep easily. This means no devices. Pick something like a book, an instrument, or even a rubix cube! You can also take this time to prepare for the next day or indulge in some self care.
- Be consistent with your wake & sleep time. Establish regular sleep and wake times, even on weekends. Yes, I know, the temptation to stay awake till 3-4 in the morning on weekends (trust me, I’ve been there). But, if you get your body accustomed to a regular sleep time, your days will go much smoother!
So, now that you know the importance of sleep in weight loss I hope this can take some of your worries away. Be sure to hit the bed early (or time your alarm clock accordingly) next time you know you aren’t going to get enough sleep at night. Sleep is not for the weak, it builds the strong.