If your plan for the year is to be healthier, maintain weight, or to lose weight, the first question you should be asking is:
“Am I getting enough sleep?”
I know… I’m the worst person to be advising anyone about sleep given that I have such terrible sleeping habits myself. My regularly sleep less than 6 hours a night. I make it up with power naps throughout the day whenever I can squeeze them in. So my goal for this year is to start sleeping at least 7 hours a night.
Why is sleep important?
Weight maintenance and weight loss…
If you’re planning to lose weight, or even to maintain your current weight, getting enough quality sleep is important because it facilitates weight loss and weight maintenance. Here’s how:
Understanding the Sleep-Diet Connection
“…if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly…
The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.”
More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain.”
So even if you’re just planning to maintain your current weight, not getting enough quality sleep makes it harder to make good dietary choices which could be impacting your efforts to keep the weight off.
From the NY Times How sleep loss adds to weight gain:
- adults and children are more likely to be overweight and obese the less they sleep at night.
- in controlled studies, subjects eat more on the days when they have had less sleep.
- losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row caused people to pack on an average of about two pounds.
- in a new study, when subjects were sleep-deprived, they strongly preferred food choices that were highest in calories, like desserts, chocolate and potato chips. The foods they requested when they were sleep deprived added up to about 600 calories more than foods they wanted when they were well rested.
Why sleep is the key for weight loss – Fitday:
In addition to the way it affects leptin and ghrelin – the hormones that regulate your appetite, sleep also affects these two other hormones that play a role in weight maintenance:
- more growth hormone is secreted at night and it aids in building muscles which increase metabolism to help you burn more energy, facilitating weight loss.
- regular sleep reduces cortisol levels which would otherwise interfere with your body’s ability to build muscle mass. Cortisol also breaks down protein into glucose that gets stored at fat if there is too much in your body.
If living healthier is your goal for the new year, getting enough quality sleep is also important. Lack of sleep has been linked to 7 serious health risks:
- heart disease
- lapses of attention/delayed reaction times
- Sleep and disease risk – Healthy Sleep, Harvard Medical
- Sleep problems and disease – Medicinenet
- Why lack of sleep is bad for your health – NHS
Sleep Quantity and Sleep Quality
Even if you are clocking the required number of hours of sleep, if the quality of your sleep is affected, the result can be the same as not sleeping enough. Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation for improving the quality of your sleep:
- Avoid napping during the day
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime
- Get regular exercise
- No heavy meals before bedtime
- Get adequate exposure to natural light
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine
- Associate your bed only with sleep
- Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing
More tips on sleep hygiene:
- Healthy Sleep – Harvard Medical
- Sleep hygiene – University of Maryland, Medical Center
- Sleep hygiene – Better Health Channel