The Science Behind How Proper Sleep Helps You Lose Weight
In perhaps the most famous “sleep-to-lose-weight” diet, Elvis Presley often asked doctors to sedate him – put him to sleep – for days so he could avoid eating and shed some pounds. Like any other fad diet, losing weight through extended sleep promised a quick fix that didn’t work. Those who tried it, including Elvis, quickly gained back the weight. Even worse, going any length of time without proper nutrition is dangerous and damaging to your body.
But that doesn’t mean that Elvis was not on the right track.
A recent Harvard study of 133,353 women, over the course of 10 years, found that those who slept well had a 45% lower chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, the one most closely related to obesity, versus those who had problems sleeping or who slept less than six hours per night.
One of the Harvard researchers pointed out that when your circadian rhythm is disturbed due to poor or lack of sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, the hormone that spurs your appetite (which makes you eat more), and not getting enough sleep lowers the production of leptin, the hormone that signals your brain that you are full (which also makes you eat more).
They also noted that sleep problems increase the production of stress hormones – aren’t you a little more irritable after a poor night’s sleep? – which can cause insulin problems; not to mention the fact that many people deal with stress by – you guessed it – eating more.
And there’s even more scientific research that shows the link between sleep issues and eating more than usual:
- Research by the University of California discovered that lack of sleep also heightened the brain’s reward centre, which means when you down those fattening treats, you enjoy them even more.
- A Mayo Clinic study found that people who cut 80 minutes of sleep one night consumed an additional 550 calories the following day, on average.
- The University of Chicago published a study that showed it’s not just the extra eating that sleep deprivation brings on that’s a problem. They found that people who slept 8.5 hours per night lost two-times the fat as people who only got 5.5 hours per night, even though both groups ate the same diet.
5 Ways to Get More Sleep – And Avoid the Risk of Weight Gain
There’s clearly a link between too little sleep and the potential to overeat and gain weight. If you were able to get a better night’s sleep, you could avoid the pitfalls and make it just that much easier to lose weight and keep it off.
1. Try to get between 6.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep each night.
Those who do have the lowest risk of weight gain according to a study done by Brigham Young University.
2. Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule
That means going to sleep at the same time every night, waking up at the same time every morning.
3. Stay Cool
Studies have shown that, if you sleep in a room at 20 degrees Celsius or less, your levels of quick-burning brown fat increase, along with your metabolism, and your insulin sensitivity improves.
4. Darkness Rules
A 2014 study showed that women who slept in the darkest rooms were 21% less likely to be obese versus those who slept in the brightest rooms.
5. This is One Place Where You Don’t Want Your Smartphone
It’s well known that the blue light from smartphone and tablet screens reduce the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy. But reduced melatonin levels also increases weight gain.
Getting a good night’s sleep helps you in so many other ways too. But remember Elvis. Sleep can help you lose weight, but it is not a standalone answer. You need a healthy balanced diet so your body gets the nutrition it needs to support your weight loss.