How Sleep Affects your Weight
Sleep plays a big part in your overall health. With healthy sleep, you are at a lower risk for certain diseases, and healthy sleep supports a regular metabolism. Insufficient sleep can lead to imbalances that may result in poor metabolism and unhealthy weight gain.
What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep
Generally, sleep deprivation is associated with a tendency to gain weight and add more fat. Maintain a regular habit of insufficient sleep, and it can result in cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance.
When you have sleep debt, your appetite increases and your self control is reduced. Your cravings for carbohydrate rich and high calorie foods increase as well, and you're more likely to turn to late night snacking. The more nights you go with insufficient sleep, the worse your food choices may become.
Sleep deprivation lowers the levels of leptin in your body, which acts as a natural appetite suppressant. At the same time, it raises ghrelin levels, a hormone that signals hunger. This makes your brain think you're hungry and need to eat food, even if that's not really the case.
A lack of sleep can increase your risk for metabolic syndrome. This syndrome can include hypertension, obesity, excess belly weight, and insulin resistance. Accumulating sleep debt can result in long term metabolic issues, leading to type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Overall, people who are sleep deprived are more likely to binge on junk food, snack late at night, eat more, and have more cravings for fatty and high carbohydrate foods. Additionally, sleep deprivation reduces your energy and increases fatigue, which makes it less likely for you to exercise.
How Sleep Supports Your Metabolism and a Healthy Weight
Most adults need at least seven to seven and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep to maintain a healthy weight. When you get too much sleep, such as nine hours a night, you may gain weight. But in general, more sleep means a healthier lifestyle, unless you're sleeping excessively.
When you get enough sleep, your metabolism isn't fighting confusing signals, and you're less likely to make bad food choices. You have more self control to make healthy choices, and you have more energy to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
How You Can Sleep Better and Support a Healthy Weight
Give yourself enough time to sleep. Make sleep a priority in your schedule, blocking out at least eight hours to rest. Although you likely need seven to seven and a half hours of sleep, giving yourself eight hours leaves room for error and gives you time to lay down in your bed and drift off to sleep at night and avoid having to jump out of bed immediately each morning.
Get treatment for sleep disorders. Often, poor sleep is due to sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. These conditions can be serious and make it difficult to get the uninterrupted sleep you need to be healthy. Talk to your doctor about how you can address any serious sleep issues that persist for more than a few weeks.
Consider sleep when dieting. Sometimes, paleo or low carb diets can cause temporary insomnia. Cutting out carbs can result in poor sleep, because carbohydrate rich foods can help you get to sleep easier. If you're short on sleep for more than a few days, consider reintroducing more carbohydrates into your diet to help.
Avoid heavy foods before bed. A large meal just before bed can make you feel uncomfortable and make it difficult for you to fall asleep. When your body is focusing on digestion, it's difficult to sleep well. Avoid eating heavy meals at least two hours before bed.
Have a bedtime snack. While a big meal before bed isn't a good idea, a small, healthy snack is. When you're hungry, it's difficult to fall asleep. You may even wake up in the middle of the night hungry and have trouble getting back down. Choose a healthy snack to eat before bed that can help you sleep better.
Selina Hall is the author and an expert on sleep health and wellness for BestMattressReviews.com. She believes that sleep is one of the most important pillars of health. Selina lives in Portland, Oregon. She sleeps best under a handmade quilt passed down from her great-grandmother.