No matter how much you weigh, odds are you would like it to be less than it is. Diet plans and weight loss solutions promise quick fix results, but for many people the missing link to losing weight may be hiding in your bedroom. Research shows that there is a definitive link between sleep deprivation and hormonal changes that increase the likeliness of weight gain. These findings mean that getting a good night’s sleep every night may be as important as any other measure you take to lose weight and be healthy.
Sleepier People Eat More
One study conducted at the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital indicates that people who get less sleep eat more calories. The participants, who were all in the normal weight range for their age and body type, were split into two groups. The first group got the recommended amount of sleep each night and the second group slept less than the recommended amount resulting in sleep deprivation. The team found that no matter which group the participants were in, they burned about the same amount of calories each day. However, those who were in the sleep deprived group took in about 300 calories more than their well-rested peers.
Hormones Wreaking Havoc
Other studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that the more a person weighs, the less sleep they get and the less sleep they get the more hunger hormones are released resulting in a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, hormone imbalance, and weight gain. When taken in context with the other study, this hormonal imbalance could indicate why the sleep deprived participants ate an average of 300 more calories per day.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a study completed at the University of Chicago found that accumulating a sleep debt over just a few days negatively affects metabolism, causes disruptions in hormone levels, and rapidly decreases the body’s ability to process glucose. After only a few days of getting less sleep than they needed, some participant’s glucose processing ability was comparable to that of a diabetic. In another study, also run by Dr. Eve Van Cauter, PhD. , lack of sleep was dubbed the “royal route to obesity”, based on the finding that men and women who were sleep deprived needed to make 30% more insulin than their peers. Future research may use these findings to determine what it is about sleep deprivation that causes diabetes.
Why Sleep Makes You Skinnier
According to Dr. Van Cauter, one of the reasons sleep deprivation leads to obesity is that modern people confuse the physical sensations of fatigue and sleepiness with hunger. They eat because they think they are hungry when in fact they are just tired. Because food is our energy, eating can give us a blood sugar bump or a protein push that helps us get through the day. Over time, this only reinforces the confusion and we eat when we are tired and lose the ability to distinguish hunger from fatigue.
What Can You Do
The most important step you can take as part of your weight loss program is committing to a good night’s sleep. Consistently going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time may help correct hormonal imbalances, return glucose processing to normal, decrease the need for extra calories, and make you feel like exercising. Regardless of the method you choose or the diet you decide on, sleep may be the missing link that will finally let you lose those last 10 pounds or put you on a path for long-term weight loss and better overall health.