Imbuir | Sleep Habits for Weight Management
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Sleep Habits for Weight Management

So the New Year rolls around and we shift our attention to…New Year, New Me!  We start the dieting process, finally pick up those dumbbells and hope to shed the winter pounds.  Most of us however don’t realize how a lack of sleep contributes to our growing waistline.  So let’s shed some light on the very important issue of sleep and obesity, and hopefully shed some extra pounds in the process.

There is an abundance of convincing evidence that getting a less than ideal amount of sleep is an independent risk factor for obesity in both children, as well as, in adults.  The largest and longest study to date on adult sleep habits and weight is the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 68,000 middle-age American women for up to 16 years. Compared to women who slept seven hours a night, women who slept five hours or less were 15 percent more likely to become obese over the course of the study.

This should be a wake-up call to many men and women who are struggling with weight loss while also lacking that important sleep.   So how exactly does sleep affect your waistline?

  1. When we toss and turn or are unable to get enough hours of sleep, certain hormones that control hunger become imbalanced. Leptin, the satiety-inducing hormone decreases while Gherlin, the appetite-stimulating hormone increases.  This results in night time cravings and hunger.
  2. Cortisol, the hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in response to stress may increase, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. This stress response over time may lead to weight gain especially around the belly, as well as contribute to a multitude of health problems such as immune system suppression, altered metabolism and body composition, as well as sex hormone abnormalities.
  3. Not sleeping at night gives us more opportunity to reach for snack foods, especially those rich in sugars and fat. Night time eating turns calories to fat as we are not in need of that extra energy to perform tasks.
  4. Not sleeping deprives us of energy during the day, and lack of energy leads to lack of motivation to exercise. Research shows that those who lack sleep tend to lead more sedentary lifestyles.

Now that you are aware of how your bad sleeping habits add those extra pounds to your waistline, it’s time to make changes.   Start with some simple sleep hygiene goals, such as setting a consistent bedtime, preferably before 10pm to prevent the “second wind” phenomenon.   Limit your caffeine intake especially late in the day, and most importantly turn off that smart phone and keep your bedroom dark.  An Epsom salt bath can be a relaxing event prior to bedtime as the magnesium salts promote muscle relaxation and therefore sleep.  And remember, good sleep habits will also improve your mood, energy, and enhance your overall quality of life.  What better way to lose weight than by having a good night’s sleep.

References:

  1. Harvard: School of Public Health
  2. Patel SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. Am J Epidemiol. 2006; 164:947-54.