Sleep and Obesity: How Lack of Sleep Affects What We Eat
Sleep is our body’s way of regenerating. It is during this time that our bodies heal wounds, release toxins, repair muscles, and balance hormones. With a full night of sleep, our minds and bodies recover from the day before, and we’re able to carry on with another hard day of mental and physical activity. But what happens when we have a lack of sleep?
A lack of proper sleep deeply affects your ability to concentrate and leaves you feeling moody and lethargic. But insomnia, sleep apnea, and even one missed night of good sleep can affect what you eat as well.
Evidence shows that there’s a direct link between sleep and obesity. It’s a startling revelation, and one you should truly pay attention to if you’re trying to lose weight or stay fit and healthy.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about how sleep deprivation affects weight gain and how to improve sleep to stay healthy and happy.
The Importance of Sleep
Doctors and scientists have long placed an emphasis on the importance of sleep in repairing our minds and improving concentration. As adults, students, parents, and athletes, we know that a lack of sleep can cause mood swings, low sex drive, and fatigue.
These aren’t the only ways that a lack of sleep can damage your body. Surprisingly, it can get a lot worse.
A sleep study performed in Russia showed that sleep deprivation can prove fatal. According to Johns Hopkins, sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of dementia by 33% and heart disease by 48%.
Other sleep deprivation effects include:
- Increased risk of anxiety
- Greater risk of depression
- A 36% increase in likelihood of colorectal cancer
- A weakened immune system
- 3x your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Aside from these health risks, you’re also more likely to gain weight, which may lead to other health conditions.
The Correlation Between Sleep & Obesity
Scientists throughout decades have tried to pin down exactly what causes obesity. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. The causes are different from person to person. While we know that there are genetic disorders, diseases, and familial traits that create predispositions for obesity, there are also behavioral indicators that increase this risk.
The first, of course, is your diet. What you eat greatly impacts your weight. The second behavior that increases weight is how much and how well you sleep.
Sleep helps to regulate your hormones, including ghrelin and leptin, which are appetite-regulating hormones. When we are sleep deprived, we tend to choose foods that are higher in fats, leading to a greater caloric intake.
Aside from regulating hormones that are in charge of our cravings, there is a deeper connection between sleep and obesity. It rests in your brain.
Your brain is responsible for a lot of things. Without proper sleep, its function is hindered. It hasn’t had enough time to recuperate. Your brain is in charge of signalling stimuli across the brain and throughout the rest of your body. During periods of sleep deprivation, certain areas of your brain that respond to food smells and tastes create more motivation to eat and even binge.
Paired with an increase in ghrelin, which increases your appetite, and a reduction in leptin, which decreases your appetite, you’re more likely to binge eat. But why do you choose foods high in fat, salt, and sugar?
A lack of sleep triggers your brain to search for ways to boost energy levels. This causes cravings for the very foods that are most damaging to our bodies. So, if you’re wondering how to eat less, the answer might be to get better sleep.
Tips For Better Sleep
Sleep should be a priority at any stage of your life, whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain weight, or just want to improve your health overall. For some, getting proper sleep can be truly challenging. There are a whole host of reasons you might be stuck awake—being a new parent, anxiety, illness, insomnia, sleep apnea, unfavorable sleep conditions, etc.
Improve your sleep by tiring yourself out during the day with exercise. Running and other forms of exercise can wake you up for a period of time, so allow at least an hour before you’re set to sleep.
Setting a sleep routine is also advisable because it trains your body to do certain things at certain times. If you’re always going to bed after you brush your teeth and wash your face, it triggers your brain to prepare to sleep.
If you’re like most people, you may have the habit of looking at your phone before you go to bed, or maybe even watching a show or movie until you fall asleep. Science actually shows that this damages our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and enjoy quality sleep. This is because our brains are wired to understand dimmer light as a signal to produce more melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. With reduced melatonin, you’re less able to fall asleep.
To make matters worse, messages and images from your phone also create alertness, and even anxiety. It’s much more challenging to sleep when you have an email on the brain or a message you want to reply to.
Other great tips for sleeping better include:
- Avoid caffeine after noon, or altogether if it causes anxiety.
- Take a sleep aid like Evlution Z Matrix.
- Maintain your sleep routine and waking times even on your days off.
- Reduce light exposure with curtains or a face mask.
- Sleep with earplugs or other noise cancelers.
- Drink a calm-inducing tea such as camomile before bed.
There’s a strong link between sleep and obesity—and your health in general. If you’re trying to lose weight, not getting the right amount of quality sleep can greatly affect the foods that you choose and the amount of those foods that you eat. Do your mind and body a favor by reducing stressors and setting yourself up for a good night of sleep.
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