How Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight (and More!)

Hitting the Snooze or Hitting the Gym?

Now that the new year has arrived (Happy New Year!), gym memberships are going to sell like there is no tomorrow. Lofty goals are going to be made, early mornings are going to be devoted to cramming in workouts, and our sleep time is likely going to suffer to accommodate our resolutions. Getting your bum to the gym is a great goal to have, as long as it doesn’t mean getting up at the crack of dawn to fit in your workout. Sacrificing sleep to fit more into your day can have negative consequences for your waistline (and more importantly, your overall health!).

Consider this: When we are exercising, we are causing wear and tear on our bodies and breaking down our muscles. When we sleep, our body has a chance to synthesize the work we’ve done during the day. Our hormones are regulated and released, tissues are repaired and energy is replenished. If we are cutting our sleep time short, we are most likely not reaping the benefits of all of those burpees we did at the gym!

While I am not saying you should skip out on pumping iron, I do want to stress the importance of making sure sleep is not being cut short. Exercise and sleep complement each other. Movement and physical activity throughout your day help you sleep better at night and sleeping better at night keeps you energized and helps you reap the benefits of a good workout.

How Sleep Affects Our Appetite and Metabolism

If your goal this year is to improve your metabolism and lose weight, sleep can help support that! Not getting enough pillow time could lead to:

  • Increased hunger
  • Increased food intake
  • Irregular leptin (the hormone that inhibits hunger) and ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) levels (source)
  • Cravings for carbohydrate-rich snacks (source)
  • Increased evening cortisol, which can lead to reduced insulin sensitivity the next day
  • Low-grade inflammation (source)

Why do we tend to overeat when we are not getting enough sleep? When we are sleep-deprived, our body is in need of energy to keep us awake and alert. Our body recognizes refined carbohydrates as a quick source of energy. This is why it is so hard to resist those donuts in the break room at work when we are tired and also why we tend to overeat when we are sleep-deprived. What our body needs is a big ol’ plate of zzz’s!

So you can see how skimping on sleep can sabotage the work you’re doing at the gym. And what’s more, sleep deprivation can have detrimental long-term effects on your health (such as weight gain, diabetes, inflammation, and irregular hormone levels).

How to Get More Quality Sleep

Don’t fret…you can get more sleep and you can get quality sleep. It’s a matter of prioritizing your sleep so that you can feel and perform your best. Schedule in your sleep just as you schedule in other things in your life and make sleep your priority if you are not getting enough. Pick your ideal bedtime and try to maintain that same bedtime every night, even on weekends.

If your ideal bedtime is 10pm but you normally sleep at midnight, gradually adjust your bedtime to 15 minutes earlier over the course of several nights until you reach your desired bedtime. This is the best way to ease your body into to a new bedtime and avoid lying in bed for hours trying to sleep earlier than you are used to.

And if you have a hard time getting to sleep, here are a few of my favorite techniques:

  • Establish a curfew to power down electronics, at least an hour before you go to sleep. Electronics increase cortisol levels, which can interfere with sleep (and insulin sensitivity).
  • If you need to use electronics at night, download blue-light filtering apps for your phone and laptop, such as f.lux or Twilight.
  • Have a nighttime routine that eases stress to help set you up for a night of peaceful sleep. Take a bath, read a book, color, meditate. Do what works for you to calm your mind at bedtime.
  • Get herbal therapy on board. Try catnip tea, chamomile tea, or valerian root tea in the evening.

Remind yourself why it is important for you to get enough sleep. For me, I function better during the day and feel happier when I get a good night of sleep. It also helps me with hormonal regulation. Remember that prioritizing sleep will help you get better results from your workouts and improve your overall health. Sweet dreams!

Leave me a comment below and let me know what motivates you to prioritize sleep!

 


Sources:

Knutson KL, Spiegel K, Penev P, Van Cauter E. The Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Sleep medicine reviews. 2007;11(3):163-178. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2007.01.002.

Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism. Endocrine development. 2010;17:11-21. doi:10.1159/000262524.

Spivey A. Lose Sleep, Gain Weight: Another Piece of the Obesity Puzzle. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2010;118(1):A28-A33.

Thomson CA, Morrow KL, Flatt SW, et al. Relationship Between Sleep Quality and Quantity and Weight Loss in Women Participating in a Weight-Loss Intervention Trial. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md). 2012;20(7):1419-1425. doi:10.1038/oby.2012.62.

Van Cauter E, Knutson K, Leproult R, Speigel K. The impact of sleep deprivation on hormones and metabolism. Medscape Neurology. 2005;7(1).

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