As the new year begins, many of us may have weight loss goals on our mind. Diet and exercise are the key areas of focus for many in helping to meet these goals. And although healthy eating and moving more are important in weight management, sleep is important too. When you’re sleeping, a lot happens in the body that can impact your weight and overall health. In fact, a recent study shows that even one night of sleep deprivation can lead to unhealthy eating. This can make weight loss difficult and could lead to weight gain in the long-term.
Why do I need to sleep?
Although some of us may think it is a badge of honor to make it through each day on little sleep, it’s nothing to brag about. That is because while you may feel ok, your body is suffering from your lack of sleep. And in the long run, you are doing more harm than good when you sacrifice sleep for more work or play.
The body uses sleep as a time when it can reboot and strengthen itself. Not to mention all of the vital bodily processes that occur during sleep. Short-term memory is converted to long-term memory while you sleep, and many important functions are regulated. While you are grabbing some shut-eye, your body is hard at work regulating blood pressure, body temperature, blood glucose levels, fluid, and hormones. Not to mention that, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, even one night of missed sleep can create a pre-diabetic state in an otherwise healthy person.
How much do I need to sleep?
The average adult should try to sleep between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Growing children require even more sleep, with babies needing 11 to 14 hours, school age children needing 9 and 11, and teens needing between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Sleep and weight loss
The United States Centers for Disease Control report that one in three Americans does not sleep enough each night. Experts suggest that not sleeping at least seven hours each night can increase risk of obesity and related conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
A recent study looked at the impact of sleep on healthy, nonsmoking men. The men had blood samples and MRI scans completed after a normal night of sleep at home and after a night kept awake in a laboratory. The next morning after each night, the study subjects were asked to choose snacks and non-food trinkets. Study results show that only after sleep deprivation were the men willing to spend money on food items even though their self-reported hunger levels were the same after both nights.
Also, after the night of sleep deprivation, researchers saw increased activity in the brain between the amygdala and hypothalamus. These areas of the brain are involved in food intake. Therefore, these findings suggest that sleep loss increased the desire for food. More research needs to be done to confirm the cause and effect of such brain signals. However, experts suggest that these findings show that sleep can greatly impact behaviors that can impact health. Therefore, sleep can increase chances of engaging in unhealthy eating patterns that can prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals.
How can I improve my sleep?
Since sleep is so crucial to healthy living in so many ways, you may ask how you can improve your sleep. Here are a few tips to help you sleep better at night so you can feel better and have a greater chance at meeting your weight loss goals.
- Limit screen time. Looking at your phone, computer, or the television before bedtime can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm due to the light emitted from the screen. Therefore, try to turn off the screen about 30 minutes or more before you plan to go to bed.
- Create a bedtime routine. Just like you set up a time to workout or eat your healthy meals and snacks, a routine can help you sleep better too. Therefore, decide what time you want to wake up. Subtract about 8 hours from that time. Then, at that time, start turning down the lights and screens, stop working, start relaxing, and prepare yourself for bed. This way, you will give your body plenty of time to settle down to sleep and catch your recommended seven hours each night.
- Try a sleep supplement. If you have trouble falling asleep, a sleep supplement may help. An example of a sleep supplement is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body, with increased production in the evening when its usually time to sleep. If your body does not produce enough melatonin, or if your circadian rhythm is off a bit due to stress, work schedules, etc., then you may have trouble sleeping. Somnova by Vita Sciences is an example of a supplement that can help you improve your sleep patterns. Somnova contains ingredients like melatonin and L-theanine that help promote peaceful sleep and relaxation.
- Limit drinking and eating before bedtime. If you eat or drink too soon before bedtime, it can disturb sleep. This is because eating a meal less than two hours before bed can increase risk of indigestion or heartburn. Also, drinking fluids too soon before bed can wake you up out of bed to use the bathroom. Therefore, try to stop drinking and eating two hours before bedtime to prevent such sleep disturbances.
- See your doctor if sleeping problems persist. If none of these strategies work, then you may have an medical issue that is disturbing your sleep. Sleep apnea and pain are common medical issues that can greatly impact sleep. In fact, sleep apnea has been linked with obesity, with weight loss helping this medical issue. Therefore, address your sleep issues with your doctor so you can receive the proper treatment. This is because receiving treatment for sleep issues can help you lose weight, which in turn can further improve weight-related health conditions like sleep apnea.
So, sweet dreams and may the new year bring you much success in becoming the healthiest YOU that you can be.
Cleveland Clinic (September 18, 2015) “What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine (accessed January 1, 2019) “The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep.”
National Sleep Foundation (accessed January 1, 2019) “Why Do We Need Sleep?”
Salamon, M. (December 17, 2018) “Sleepless Night Could Make Morning Pastries Tougher to Resist.” HealthDay.