When we’re on the path to weight loss, we may not have even the slightest thought that perhaps sleep is a necessary component of any successful weight loss journey. Why would we? Weight loss is about calorie intake versus calorie burn, right?
Weight loss is a combination of factors, and as it turns out, sleep is one of the important ones.
I had a horrible day not so long ago. It started off with just five hours of sleep, even though I was exhausted the day before. I started my day feeling sleepy and lethargic. How was I going to deal with a long day at work feeling that way? For starters, I stopped at a coffee shop for a caffeine jolt and figured that a muffin would give me an additional boost to get me through the morning.
But wait! What about my commitment to eat healthy and wholesome breakfasts that would keep me full AND give me needed nutrition? Long story short: I didn’t have the energy to think about a healthy breakfast choice…besides; the muffin was beckoning to me from the moment I walked in the door.
A couple of hours after my coffee stop, I was back in the “no energy” zone and felt like I was dragging. Oh, and I was hungry. It wasn’t lunchtime yet so I decided to get myself a snack…thank you vending machine! (And yes, I got myself something high in sugar and low in nutritional value)
Lunch was normal, and so was dinner. Unfortunately, I still had some leftover dessert from the night before, and even though it wasn’t my “off” day from healthy eating, I couldn’t help but have a serving.
Suffice it to say that by the time I went to bed, I had consumed way too many calories and the guilt was glaring at me from ten miles away.
Why did I make such poor choices that day? Why was I craving unhealthy food more than usual? And how would this affect my weight loss?
It’s really quite simple. Lack of sleep = hormonal changes + increased appetite and appeal for unhealthy foods = roadblock to weight loss.
If we don’t get enough sleep, our brain functions differently around food. It responds more to junk food. Areas in the brain that motivate us to eat are activated, and areas responsible for judgment take the backseat. So, if we’re tired, we’re more likely to struggle to make healthy decisions.
Not only that, but our hormone production changes. Leptin, responsible for appetite suppression, decreases. Ghrelin, responsible for appetite stimulation, increases. And all because we didn’t get enough sleep…
And yes, it does affect our caloric intake and the dietary choices we make. Studies show that sleep-deprived people choose high calorie foods more than those who have had enough sleep.
This becomes a problem when sleep deprivation is constant or frequently occurring. We put ourselves at risk for poor choices which prevent weight loss and possibly lead to weight gain. All this results from things that happen outside of our conscious awareness, which makes it all the more dangerous.
Of course, the occasional sleepy day won’t really be damaging. The problem is when sleep deprivation is the norm, which is the case for many Americans today. Constant lack of sleep can sabotage our weight loss plans and our waistlines. This makes it that much more important for us to get the recommended average hours of sleep every night. That doesn’t simply mean logging 6-7 hours a night. It means getting a solid 6-7 hour night…without frequent waking.
A solid night of sleep is practically the powerful secret to regulating appetite and pushing yourself towards continued weight loss.
You may be thinking: “It’s too difficult with all that’s on my mind” or “I just can’t fall asleep easily.”
Well, you’re not alone, and that’s why experts have recommended certain things to help you make sure that you get a good night’s sleep every night, and help yourself on your weight loss journey. These tips are referred to as “sleep hygiene”, and they allow for anyone to experience good quality sleep all night, every night. Use them to your benefit!
- Don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon
- Avoid or limit alcohol before bed
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid spicy/high-fat dinners
- Stay away from daytime naps
- Have your dinner a few hours before bed, and if you snack, make sure it’s light and causes no discomfort.
- Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing environment for you and contains no distractions (TV, iPads, etc)
- Establish a regular routine; go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. This will program your body for set sleep hours.
More tips are available, depending on your situation. To get a better sense of how sleep is affecting your weight loss, talk to your weight loss coach today!