Eating the right foods and doing regular exercise are obviously essential when it comes to losing weight, but there are other factors that can contribute to shedding those pounds.
One of the most important is ensuring you get a good night’s sleep. Obviously we all love getting as much sleep as possible, but why does it actually help us to lose weight?
Many experts believe that getting enough good-quality sleep is just as important as eating healthily and getting enough exercise. This could be because not getting enough sleep will stop you doing both of these things, thus preventing you from losing weight.
Sleep deprivation & cravings
When you’re lacking in sleep, your body needs energy to keep you awake and as alert as possible. Therefore it craves foods that are high in sugar and makes you more likely to snack on unhealthy foods – if you’re shattered, you’ll probably also skip that gym session you told yourself you’d definitely do.
One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were sleep deprived, they were more likely to snack late at night, and were more likely to pick high-carb foods. Further research discovered that those suffering from a lack of sleep chose snacks with twice as much fat as those who had at least eight hours of sleep.
Part of the problem is the effect that sleep deprivation has on our decision making. It impairs our frontal lobe, which means we can’t think clearly and have less self-control. Combine this with our propensity for snacking on unhealthy foods when we’re tired, and it’s easy to see how not getting enough sleep can make us put on weight.
Not getting enough sleep has a significant impact on two important hormones in your body: ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body it needs feeding, and, annoyingly, when you’re tired, you produce more of it, making you want to snack. On the flip side, leptin is the hormone that signals when you’re full. If you’re lacking sleep, you make less leptin and so you eat more than you need to. Put those two things together and it’s a recipe for weight gain.
Then there’s increases in cortisol levels and reduction in insulin production, both of which are important in converting food into energy, and can lead to you gaining weight. There’s a lot going on, and all just from not getting enough sleep!
So sleeping well can aid in your attempts to reach your weight loss goals, but there are also a number of advantages to getting some decent kip, including:
- Improved immune system
- Look younger and have better skin
- Increased productivity
And who doesn’t want a little more of that?
How to get a better night’s sleep
Do you have trouble sleeping? Try this advice…
Turn off your tech
Many of us like to watch TV, play computer games or browse our phones before bed, but this could actually be causing you to have a more disturbed night’s sleep. This is because screens emit what is known as blue light, which tricks the brain into thinking it’s sunlight.
This restricts the production of melatonin, which is the chemical that makes us feel tired, and so we find it harder to fall asleep. Therefore, you need to turn off those screens an hour or so before you go to bed.
Have a sleep schedule and rituals
We have these things called circadian rhythms, which is a fancy way of describing our sleep-wake cycle. By keeping them regular, ie. going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day, we’ll get better quality sleep and feel more alert during the day.
Creating sleep rituals is also an excellent way of getting better sleep, as they train your mind and body to know when it’s time to shut down for the night. Try something relaxing like having a bath or reading a book – just try to cut out watching the TV!
Improve your sleep environment
You should try and create an environment that promotes sleep and relaxation. Use calm, muted colours and surround yourself with comfy soft furnishings. You should also keep your bedroom purely for sleep – if you watch TV, do exercise or eat your dinner in your bedroom, then your brain will associate those things with that room and try and keep you awake for longer.