Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Lack of Sleep Contributes to "Almost Immediate Weight Gain."

When making changes to your lifestyle and committing to new goals, you need to be performing at your best each day to help ensure you have the physical and emotional strength to stay focused on your priorities, and consistently make the right decisions. A lack of sleep negatively affects your ability to do this in several ways and "studies have shown that people who habitually sleep less than six hours per night are much more likely to have a higher than average BMI."3

"Losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row 
can lead to almost immediate weight gain." 1

Too little sleep upsets the balance of hormones that control appetite, energy metabolism, and glucose processing. 3 This lack of sleep causes the body to:

Increase the amounts of the steroid hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone," as it is released in the body as a response to stress to increases blood sugar, heart rate, and prepare the body to repair tissue easily. 4 While this is a temporarily useful mechanism your body relies on to protect you from a perceived threat, it has some negative side effects as well, especially when compounded over a long-term basis. Cortisol also "alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes." The "overexposure to cortisol ... can disrupt almost all of your body's processes ... [putting you at risk for] anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment."4

Increase in insulin following a meal. Insulin is a hormone "that regulates the glucose processing and promotes fat storage; higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain."3

Lower levels of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that tells brain that body that it has enough food. A lack of sleep results in leptin levels lowering in the body, signaling your brain to "make you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested."2

Increase ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is a biochemical that stimulates appetite. When ghrelin increases in the body, it sends signals to the brain telling it that you're hungry. In addition to the hormonal imbalances already affecting the body's ability to discern whether it is truly hungry or not, a lack of sleep may result in being "more likely to eat foods such as sweets that satisfy the craving for a quick energy boost [and] may leave us too tired to burn off these extra calories with exercise."3 

Perform at a lower level mentally. "Studies show that ... if you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change."2 All of these tools are critical, whether it be in your effort to begin a weight-loss program, adhere to new healthy behaviors, or maintain your healthy lifestyle on a regular basis.

Struggle to Remain Healthy. In addition to the above, your body depends on sleep tremendously to replenish systems that were depleted during the day, such as the immune system. Several days of a lowered immune system, lack of sleep, exposure to stress and pathogens greatly increases your risk of getting sick. Remaining healthy and full of energy is critical in ensuring you are able to take the steps you need to each day to reach your weight-loss and health-related goals.

Some resources for creating healthy sleep habits:

6 Tips to Start Your Own Meditation Routine

Engineering a High-Quality Restful Night

16 Tips for Better Sleep

1. Parker-Pope, Tara. "Lost Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain." New York Times. 18 March 2013.
2. "Why is Sleep Important." National Heart, Lunch, and Blood Institute. 22 February 2012.
3. "Sleep and Disease Ricks." Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 18 December 2007.
4. Mayo Clinic staff. "Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk." Mayo Clinic. 11 July 2013.
5. Matthews, Jessica.  "When it Comes to Weight Loss, How Important is Sleep?" ACE Fit Family Health. 25 November 2009.