Hopefully, we all recognize the importance of sleep. I mean, there is a reason that we are supposed to do it for eight hours every night (or day, if you are nocturnal). The body can’t perform at a high level all the time and needs time to refresh and rejuvenate itself. That is precisely what happens when we sleep. However, did you know that the sleep you get (or lack thereof) can profoundly affect how much you weigh?
Emerging science has found a strong connection between not getting enough sleep and weight gain. And these findings are much more solid than a simple correlation, so anyone thinking “correlation is not causation” can leave the room right now.
These findings indicate that getting enough sleep each night is more important than ever, given the obesity crisis that is effecting most of the Western world. Let’s see what the scientists found.
How Does Sleep Effect Your Weight?
The science behind this effect is not exactly new. Scientists and doctors already had an idea that this may be the case, but recent science has left no room for doubt on the issue now. And believe me, the evidence is Mount Everest high.
One of the studies that put this issue to rest took place over a 16 year span that involved over 60,000 adult subjects. Researchers tracked the amount of sleep the subjects got and they also tracked the weight of the participants. The findings? The subjects that got less sleep ended up gaining more weight and were more likely to develop obesity than their counterparts who got a sufficient amount of sleep.
If there are somehow still skeptics out there after reading about that study, let me point you to another study. This study was conducted across the pond in the United Kingdom and involved over 1,600 adult subjects. The study found that the subjects who received less than six hours of sleep every night had bigger waists than those who slept for more than six hours. This indicates that the folks who did not get enough sleep ended up building more “belly fat” – which is the kind of fat that poses a serious risk to one’s health. Too much belly fat can cause you a person to develop diabetes, heart disease, issues with their metabolism, as well as even cancer.
Now that we have determined without a shadow of a doubt that not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain, is the inverse true as well?
Can Getting Enough Sleep Help You Lose Weight?
In my opinion, this is a more important question than the question about not getting enough sleep leading to weight gain. And it turns out that there are various benefits that you can reap from getting enough sleep that can aid in your weight loss goals. Let’s take a look at some!
Stops You From Eating To Much
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. The more time you spend awake expending energy doing various things, the more time you have to munch on things. Your stomach will growl and you will reach for a snack to stop it. However, being asleep curbs that issue.
And while this may seem obvious and not require any further information, there is solid science behind it as well. A study found that people who were up later in the evening ended up consuming over 500 more calories than those who did not. All of those calories were consumed between the hours of 11 PM and 4 AM – the hours that most of us normal people are asleep. The worst part is that these are mostly fat calories because who is going to munch on a healthy meal during those times.
As far as nocturnal people go, this can apply to you as well, just in different hour ranges. If you stay up past your normal sleep time, you are more likely to get hungry and snack on something unhealthy.
You Will Not Be Tired
Speaking of no-brainers – of course getting enough sleep will make sure you are not tired during the day. But what does this have to do with weight loss? A lot, actually. It turns out that being tired can lead you to make some rather unhealthy choices. This is because your body just does not have the energy to do anything positive, such as getting some physical activity. And when you do not get enough sleep, you will be tired ALL DAY. This means that your body will not want to do any kind of physical activity for the entire day. You would rather lounge around and do nothing – besides grabbing for a snack. For us who get normal sleep, we get tired around bedtime, which means there is way less time to make any bad choices. Additionally, we have not been tired all day which means we had enough energy to make good choices.
Now of course, making the choice to exercise requires more than just ample sleep and energy – but it is a good place to start!
You Will Not Be As Hungry
This kind of ties in with the first benefit but also stems off in a different direction. In this benefit, we are going to take a look at two hormones known as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for signaling to your brain that your body is hungry and needs food. This hormone is usually released when a lot of time has passed since you last ate something. Leptin, on the other hand, is the hormone responsible for signaling to your brain that you have eaten enough and are now full.
Getting an insufficient amount of sleep can throw a monkey wrench into this whole system, though. Studies have indicated that the bodies of people who get under six hours of sleep each night end up releasing a lot more ghrelin and a lot less leptin than those who get a healthy night’s sleep. This means that those who do not get a sufficient amount of sleep will feel more hungrier more frequently throughout the day than those who did sleep for a sufficient amount of time (7-8 hours).
You Will Not Be Tempted To Snack On Junk Food
Sugary snacks are incredibly unhealthy for you. I think it is safe to say that most people know that. However, your mind may not be thinking like that if your body is running on only a few hours of sleep. This is due to the effect mentioned above about your body feeling more hungrier far more frequently.
But to pile on top of that, brain signals get crossed when you do not get enough sleep that cause sugary junk foods to seem way more enjoyable than they normally would be. This makes a tired person far more likely to scarf them down. This can even happen if the person is not feeling hungry due to the fact that the messed up brain signals interpret eating those foods as a fun activity.This effect does not occur if your body is running on a sufficient amount of sleep.
Your Risk Of Diabetes Will Be Low
I mentioned earlier that not getting enough sleep has been shown to greatly increase one’s chances of developing diabetes. It is believed that this effect is due to a certain impact that sleep has on the insulin levels in your body. Insulin is an essential hormone in the body as it helps the body to utilize the glucose it has consumed. The effect that sleep deprivation on this process is quite impactful.
One study forced its subjects, who usually got a healthy amount of sleep each night, to receive only four hours of sleep each night for a week. The researchers of the study found that once the week period was up, the subjects’ bodies were 40 percent less effective of breaking down and absorbing glucose than before the study started. These findings indicate a clear and undeniable connection between sleep deprivation and glucose absorption.
Some of you may be wondering how this all relates to diabetes. You see, when the body has difficulty utilizing consumed glucose (by turning it into usable energy), it will keep pumping out more of the hormone meant to break it down to be used (insulin). Excessive insulin levels will cause your body to end up developing a resistance to the hormone and thus, diabetes.
What Is Considered To Be A Sufficient Amount Of Sleep?
The consensus among doctors and sleep experts is that eight hours of sleep is the ideal amount of sleep that one should get each night. All of the studies conducted find a drop off in the negative effects and an increase in the positive effects of sleep once one surpasses the seventh hour. I would personally say that anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep is the sufficient amount. Do not forget that too much sleep can be just as bad as too little sleep, though. Try not to sleep any longer than nine hours.
Sleep And Weight Loss Wrap Up
As you can see, there is a clear and direct connection between the amount of sleep one gets and the effects that it will have on their weight. Getting below seven hours of sleep will cause behaviors and internal effects that will contribute to weight gain. While getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night will keep these harmful behaviors and effects from arising and lead you to make better and healthier choices during the day to help you lose weight. One good tip to help you fall asleep easier and help you lose weight at the same time is to get plenty of physical activity. Good luck!