Longevity Living | Maximizing Weight Loss Success: The Role of Sleep in Slimming Down

When it comes to weight loss, the cornerstone strategies have always been to eat fewer calories and exercise more. Certainly solid advice for sure. But our bodies are complex, intricate machines and it is becoming clear that so many other factors influence our weight and our ability to shed those extra pounds. One factor that has been getting more attention recently is the amount and quality of sleep we get. There is a lot of evidence linking a lack of sleep with obesity.

 

Now, does this mean that simply getting more sleep will help you get to a healthier weight? Probably not...there is no magic bullet. But, it can certainly be a helpful addition to your toolbox. When it comes to improving our health on any front, a holistic approach that targets multiple areas will give us our best chance at success.

Now, does this mean that simply getting more sleep will help you get to a healthier weight? Probably not...there is no magic bullet. But, it can certainly be a helpful addition to your toolbox. When it comes to improving our health on any front, a holistic approach that targets multiple areas will give us our best chance at success.

Research on Sleep and Weight

While not every study has found a link between sleep and weight, the majority have, according to Harvard University, making a strong case for a relationship between them. The largest study examining sleeping habits and weight is the Nurse's Health Study, which tracked 68,000 women for up to 16 years. Compared to women who slept seven hours a night, those who got five or fewer hours of sleep nightly were 15 percent more likely to become obese over this period. Other studies have found that sleeping a shorter amount of time increases insulin resistance, which may lead the body to store more fat.

Insufficient Sleep May Influence Food Choices

GET THE BEST SLEEP OF YOUR LIFE. EASE MAGNESIUM.

There have been several studies examining the effects of sleep duration on food choices, and several have found that not getting enough sleep may cause cravings for junk foods, particularly simple carbohydrates in the form of cakes, cookies, soda and the like. And we all know these foods are enemy number one if you want to achieve weight-loss success. One such study from Berkeley examined the brain regions that govern food choices and found some interesting results. Using MRIs, the researchers performed brain scans on 23 participants after both a normal amount of sleep and after a sleepless night.

What participants craved was measured by having them rate their level of desire for 80 different foods (shown to them in pictures), which were a mix of low- and high-calorie, healthy and unhealthy. Scans from the latter period found impaired activity in the frontal lobe, which is responsible for complex decision-making, and increased activity in areas of the brain that respond to rewards. They also noted stronger preferences for unhealthier foods. In other words, the part of the brain that would aid us in making healthy choices becomes a bit fuzzy and the part that controls desire gets amped up. 

What participants craved was measured by having them rate their level of desire for 80 different foods (shown to them in pictures), which were a mix of low- and high-calorie, healthy and unhealthy. Scans from the latter period found impaired activity in the frontal lobe, which is responsible for complex decision-making, and increased activity in areas of the brain that respond to rewards. They also noted stronger preferences for unhealthier foods. In other words, the part of the brain that would aid us in making healthy choices becomes a bit fuzzy and the part that controls desire gets amped up. 

How Sleep May Affect Weight

GET THE BEST SLEEP OF YOUR LIFE. EASE MAGNESIUM.

The amount of sleep we get likely influences our weight on many fronts, with the net results being an increase in food intake or a decrease in the number of calories burned. Not getting enough sleep may increase hunger by increasing the production of hormones that stimulate the appetite and decreasing production of those that help control it, that send signals to the brain telling us that we're full. Staying awake longer may also contribute. The longer you are awake, the more time you have to eat.

Some experiments have found that people who were sleep-deprived tended to eat more when food was readily available, particularly during the hours when you would normally be sleeping. Furthermore, not getting enough sleep causes a drop in body temperature, which may lead to burning fewer calories, but there is not a lot of research into this as of yet. And let's face it, aside from the physiological changes that not sleeping enough may cause, not getting enough sleep can also lead to all sorts of problematic behavior that could impact your weight loss efforts.

When you are tired, you do less. When you are tired, you are more likely to get stressed out, and when you are feeling stressed and unhappy, you are less likely to make healthy choices. You feel more pessimistic and you just don't care about your well-being as much. When you are well-rested, you are in a better state of mind, and you feel better physically and emotionally. When you feel good, you want to make choices that will keep you feeling good.

Staying awake longer may also contribute. The longer you are awake, the more time you have to eat. Some experiments have found that people who were sleep-deprived tended to eat more when food was readily available, particularly during the hours when you would normally be sleeping. Furthermore, not getting enough sleep causes a drop in body temperature, which may lead to burning fewer calories, but there is not a lot of research into this as of yet. And let's face it, aside from the physiological changes that not sleeping enough may cause, not getting enough sleep can also lead to all sorts of problematic behavior that could impact your weight loss efforts.

When you are tired, you do less. When you are tired, you are more likely to get stressed out, and when you are feeling stressed and unhappy, you are less likely to make healthy choices. You feel more pessimistic and you just don't care about your well-being as much. When you are well-rested, you are in a better state of mind, and you feel better physically and emotionally. When you feel good, you want to make choices that will keep you feeling good.

When you are tired, you do less. When you are tired, you are more likely to get stressed out, and when you are feeling stressed and unhappy, you are less likely to make healthy choices. You feel more pessimistic and you just don't care about your well-being as much. When you are well-rested, you are in a better state of mind, and you feel better physically and emotionally. When you feel good, you want to make choices that will keep you feeling good.

The amount of sleep you get is probably not the missing link that will all of a sudden help you lose weight easily. It's just one piece of the puzzle, but it is shaping up to be quite an important piece. Again, your best approach is a holistic one. All of the small changes you make to your habits and routine will have a cumulative effect, giving you the greatest chance of success.

GET THE BEST SLEEP OF YOUR LIFE. EASE MAGNESIUM.

Article Resources:
www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sleep/
news.berkeley.edu/2013/08/06/poor-sleep-junk-food/

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