If you’re currently trying or have tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard ten times over the myriad best practices you should be following, but there’s probably a very simple one that’s been left out: getting a good night’s sleep.
An estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight, according to a recent study, which makes us the country with the highest proportion of overweight and obese people in the world, clocking in at 13% of the global total. Equally concerning, almost a third of Americans report that they are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep.
Sleep scientist Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep suggests that these two statistics may be related, saying that insufficient sleep is “very likely a key contributor to the epidemic of obesity”. “Epidemiological studies,” Walker tells us, “have established that people who sleep less are the same individuals who are more likely to be overweight or obese”.
What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re currently looking to lose weight, you should make sure that you are getting a good night’s sleep. The science behind it has a lot to do with one of the most important factors of weight loss: your diet.
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Skimping on sleep makes you hungrier
Sleep performs two very impactful duties when it comes to your goal of keeping at a healthy weight:
A good night’s sleep gives you the needed energy to get up off the couch the next day and get to your workout.
Sleep puts the brakes on your brain’s impulse control, helping you to both eat better and eat just the right amount.
As we all know, the challenge to eat right rather than gorge on what we may be craving can be a bigger struggle sometimes than getting through the most vigorous workout. The good news? A great sleep can make this choice a bit easier to make.
Your appetite is fueled by two hormones called leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin tells your body when it should be hungry, while leptin signals to your body that you’ve eaten enough. A study at the University of Chicago found that operating on four or five hours of sleep decreased concentrations of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin, throwing them out of their proper balance—a clear sign that your body’s hunger has gone off the rails.
A similar study found that not only does poor sleep encourage you to eat more often than you should, but it also makes you reach for high-fat and high-salt snack foods more often, as your brain’s impulse pushing you toward immediate snacking satisfaction grows stronger on less sleep.
Poor sleep’s sabotaging of your health even extends to your workout: research has shown that being sleep deprived and attempting to shed weight results more often in the loss of muscle rather than actual fat.
Sleep—your best workout partner
As we like to talk about, there’s practically no limit to the amazing positive effects that consistently good sleep can have on our health. The other side of this? Your body’s most important functions will begin to break down and fail without the right amount of sleep. To ensure that your body is working with you in your weight goals, a good night’s sleep is a must.
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