Sleep… Who Needs It?

27 04 2016

So often I am asked if there is a trick to losing weight. Why is eating right and being more active easier for some people than others? The obvious answer may be that some people are lazy or lack willpower, or maybe it’s genetics; but could there be something else… some other element that is being forgotten? The answer is YES!  It’s sleep! Sleep not only affects our day to day functionality but also our body’s ability to lose weight.

According the research published in Annals of Internal Medicine, not sleeping at least 7 hours per night can reduce or even UNDO the benefits of your healthy diet! Sure, coffee or soda can do wonders for acute energy boosts, but the hormones that control your fat cells will not feel the same. When your body is sleep deprived it is unable to use insulin properly. Why does this matter? When insulin is not used properly, the excess insulin causes our bodies to store fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues in the liver, which can cause diseases such as diabetes. Adequate sleep also helps our bodies control hormones such as Cortisol.  Cortisol is that pesky hormone related to stress that activates the parts of the brain that make us want food. When we have don’t have enough sleep, cortisol levels rise, making us want more food than we really need, and in combination with other hormones, you may feel hungry all day long… even after a big meal.

The effects of too little sleep don’t just stop at our diets, they can wreak havoc on our body’s function during and after physical activity. Research shows, the lack of sleep effects can actually decrease the body’s ability to create muscle, along with making it harder for the body to recover from exercise. Since we know muscle is fat’s worst enemy, we can see how this is going to affect our weight loss progress and make us prone to injuries.

Now that you have an idea of how sleep can affect your weight loss, here are some ways to make prioritizing sleep easier, to ensure your hard work pays off!

  1. Keep it consistent– going to bed and waking at the same time every day will help your body form a habit of when to shut down and start up. At first this may be difficult but not matter if you toss and turn all night or a great night sleep, the key to long term sleep success is consistency. To help- set two alarms, one to go to bed and one to wake up!
  2. Create a bedtime ritual– making a relaxing ritual before bed will help your mind and body wind down from the day. Reading or taking a bath are both great relaxing rituals.
  3. Dim the Technology- diming the lights and other technology screens one hour before bed can help turn ‘off’ your neurotransmitters often activated by iPads, TVs, smart phones and other device screens.
  4. Get out of bed when you can’t sleep- sometimes those who have sleep problems are actually spending too much time in bed. It is recommended that insomnia patients go to bed later so they may have 6 hours of deeper sleep verses 8 hours of fragmented sleep.

 Kelly Stubna, MPH

PEIA Health Behavior Coach

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