We’ve all been there. You set great intentions to eat well, exercise, maybe even meditate. But then something happens (late night Netflix binge anyone?) and you end up getting less sleep than you intended. Maybe a lot less sleep, or maybe only the difference of an hour. The next day, those cravings strike, and suddenly a donut is calling your name when you had a perfectly good breakfast planned out. Do you ever wonder why you have a hard time sticking to your diet when you’re tired? It’s not just you!! There’s actually a physiological reason behind it-read up to learn why.
How can a lack of sleep lead to weight gain?
We all know that we’re supposed to get around 8 hours of sleep, but a lot of you think that’s merely a suggestion. Hey, I get it! There are so many more things that we could be doing. Have you heard “sleep is for the dead?” Sometimes I get this crazy idea that since the kiddos are fast asleep, maybe I should try to catch up on some work. Or finally enjoy some peace and quiet, have a glass of wine and take a bath.
More often than not, I end up on the couch, watching reruns of The Office and thinking about what sounds good to eat. Trust me, I’m usually not thinking about celery or cucumbers (are there any thin mints stashed away in the freezer somewhere?!).
Maybe it’s because I’m a mom of two now, but sleep is worth more than gold my friend. And it turns out, it’s actually pretty good for your health.
When you are sleep deprived, you are more likely to seek out sources of energy in coffee and sugary or high-fat foods. They will provide an instant boost, but the high-calorie content of these foods can lead weight gain. The extra caffeine and sugar may also lead to difficulty falling asleep again that evening, creating a vicious cycle.
And, the longer you are awake, the more likely you are to consume calories that you don’t need. Ever get a sudden craving for popcorn or ice cream (or in my case, Girl Scout cookies) while you’re watching tv super late? Ya, it’s kinda like that.
When you are not getting enough good quality sleep, your metabolism cannot function properly and slows down. This can also affect your hormones, particularly ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells us when to eat. When you are tired you have more ghrelin, which means you may feel hungry even if you don’t need to eat. Leptin is the hormone that tells us to stop eating, and adversely, you have less leptin when you are tired. This means you may continue eating well after you are full.
So not only is your metabolism slower when you miss out on sleep, but you’re also eating more!
Six reasons sleep can help you lose weight
Let me drop some fact bombs on you. Getting more sleep can help you:
- Stay focused. You have goals right?! How many times have you noticed that you’re less likely to stick to your workout/diet routine when you didn’t get enough sleep? (Both of my hands are raised high here!)
- Stick to the right portions and the right foods. You have lower inhibitions when you’re tired, which creates a tendency to overeat. It also causes us to seek out more unhealthy, comfort foods that increase your energy, even if the effect is short-lived.
- Reduce snacking late at night. Think back to what I mentioned about staying up late and getting a craving for something to munch on. Falling asleep early means less hours that you may be hungry.
- Shop healthier. Just like you should never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, don’t go when you’re tired either. You’re more likely to add junk foods or other unhealthy fare to your cart to satisfy that need for energy when you’re exhuasted.
- Feel full, longer. When you get enough sleep, your hormones are more likely to be in balance. And when you have enough of the hormone leptin, you will feel full, satisfying your need to eat.
- Burn more calories. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that after even just one night of sleep deprivation, a person has significantly less energy expenditure the next day, regardless of diet or activity.
So I hope you understand just how important sleep is to your weight management efforts. It’s a vital piece of the puzzle, and if you want to look and feel good, get some sleep! Check out my other post with tips on getting better sleep.
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