Okay, you can’t burn calories by just sleeping, but did you know that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight?
Recent studies have shown that too little sleep or too much sleep can contribute to weight gain. In one such study, men who were chronically sleep deprived found that their preferences for high-calorie foods increased and they consumed more calories overall. In another study, women who got less than six hours of sleep a night or more than nine hours were more likely to gain 11 pounds when compared with women who got slept seven hours of sleep per night.
One explanation may be that that the amount of sleep you get the hormones that regulate hunger (ghrelin and leptin) and stimulates the appetite. Also, lack of sleep leads to fatigue and could result in less physical activity. Sleep is also extremely important to your brain – specifically your frontal lobe. Your frontal lobe is the part of your brain that helps you make decisions and control impulses and lack of sleep dulls it. When you’re tired, that pint of ice cream can seem like a great idea. Not only is it harder to control your impulses, you’ll also find that you crave high carb, high calorie snacks. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that sleep deprived subjects snacked more and chose calorie dense foods for their snacks.
Lack of sleep also stimulates the brain’s reward center. So, when we are chronically sleep deprived, we crave comfort foods. Again, these are usually high calorie, high carb foods. Subjects in another study consumed about 300 extra calories a day. Sleep deprivation also affects your body’s ability to respond to insulin—another factor leading to weight gain and a contributor in developing type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, up to two thirds of Americans don’t get enough sleep. You should be getting at least 7 hours and not more than 9 hours of good quality sleep a night. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Avoid screen time (computers, TVs, tablets) in the last hour before bedtime. Don’t drink too much caffeine later in the day and limit alcohol intake. All of these will help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. According the American Journal of Health Promotion, people who maintain an unvarying sleep schedule have a lower percentage of body fat. Additionally, a randomized trial published in the journal Obesity found that among overweight and obese women ages 35 to 55 who were partaking in a weight loss program, getting the right amount of good quality sleep (6.5 hours to 8.5 hours) increased the chance of weight loss success by 33 percent.
Even pro athletes like Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal have spoken about the importance of sleep along with diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy life style. Not only does sleep detox your brain, boost your immune system, and help you fight the effects of aging, but it also affects your metabolism. So, now you have another reason to get a good night’s sleep!