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Sleep Deprivation Effects in your Weight Loss Journey

05/28/2020
By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

Lack of sleep is something no one likes to deal with. Sleep deprivation effects are countless, and none of them are positive. You’re tired all the time, you’re tossing and turning in your bed all night long, and the thought of trying to get some sleep makes you anxious. People who do not get enough sleep through the night are more prone to suffer from high blood pressure, a decrease in the immune system power, and, ultimately, weight gain.

To know why sleep deprivation has so many adverse side effects, you need to understand why sleep is essential. Experts worldwide have gone above and beyond to try and figure out why sleep is crucial for the proper functioning of the body and mind. The pace of life today today is fast and stressful, and sometimes sleep is seen as a luxury—when it’s anything but that.

Sleep & Obesity – Northside Hospital

Getting enough sleep is vital for the normal function of your body. When you don’t sleep enough, you can feel tired and drowsy, and you may have trouble concentrating. You likely don’t feel happy and satisfied, and your mood may become irritable—not a life you want to live.

While sleeping less than six hours increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes and breast cancer, it can also affect your social skills. And when it comes to long-term negative effects of sleep deprivation, experts agree that sleep and weight gain are closely related, as well.

Why Sleep and Weight Loss Do Not Correlate

When you sleep, you enter a recovery mode. When you feel relaxed and rested, you’re more prepared to take on the world. That sounds like common sense, right? But why do people gain weight when they’re not sleeping enough?

young woman with smartwatches on hand sleep in white bed.
When You Sleep, You Enter a Recovery Mode (Image Source: Shutterstock)

University of Colorado’s Sleep and Chronobiology laboratory conducted a study with participants living in their lab for two weeks in which the lab scientists aimed to find a correlation between sleep deprivation and weight gain.

The participants were quarantined—working, sleeping, and eating in their isolation chamber. Their every move was carefully examined, with attention on their food intake in particular. In the first few days of the research, participants were allowed to sleep nine hours a night and eat whenever and whatever they wanted.

It’s the second part of the study that proved that there was a link between being sleep deprived and having trouble losing weight. During this stage of the study, participants were divided into two groups. One group lived in the same circumstances as they had at the beginning of the research. The second group was allowed to sleep only five hours a night with their food intake unchanged. The results were not surprising at all. Being awake more time during the 24 hours, participants began snacking more often, eventually turning their three-meal plans to four meals a day. Snacking in between meals also became a habit, peaking in the period after dinner.

Sleep Deprivation Effects on the Two Essential Hormones

There are two most important hormones the body produces when it comes to eating: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to eat, while leptin does the opposite—it tells your brain when you’ve had enough and that it’s time to stop eating.

Sleep Deprivation Increases Hunger Hormone Levels (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When you’re sleep-deprived, levels of ghrelin go through the roof, and you may suddenly crave ice cream, chips, and cookies. There is another thing that contributes to this fact. When you lack sleep, you start producing a lipid called endocannabinoid, which has a huge effect on leptin. It can decrease the “full” horomorne so significantly that your first cue to stop eating is a stomachache, rather than a feeling of not being hungry anymore.

How to Get Enough Sleep and Kick-start your Weight Loss Journey

Sleeping better is one of the key components to staying healthy and fit. It might sound strange, but your body spends a lot of energy while sleeping.

  • REM sleep would be something like cardio training if you were to work out in your sleep. During this stage, your brain is alert, and your heart rate goes up, which ultimately results in burning calories.
  • Food digestion takes time and energy, and that happens during sleep. This doesn’t mean you should eat a whole chicken and two cups of rice to burn more calories, but having a balanced meal two to three hours before bedtime is beneficial. 
  • Muscle recovery is yet another way you burn calories in your sleep. If you were working out during the day, your muscle recovery would happen while you sleep.
Young Man Sleeping On Bed With Eyes Closed
You Should Strive To Get a Healthy Amount of Sleep (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Even though sleeping too little can cause weight gain and obesity, sleeping too much will do the same. So it’s not about sleeping until you can sleep no more—you should strive to get a healthy amount of sleep.

A Good Night’s Sleep, and How to Get It

There are so many things that affect your sleep. The National Sleep Foundation lists several things you need to do to be  on your way to waking up rested in the morning.

The most important thing to remember is that your bedroom is a place where you spend a significant part of your life, so you should consider it as an essential room in your home. Investing in it is investing in yourself. You should buy products that will help you get better sleep, rather than the ones that will only look nice. Quality mattresses, pillows, and sheets might be expensive, but they’re worth it.

The best way to treat your sleep deprivation is to sleep more. That’s usually not so easy, especially if you struggle to get quality sleep because of an underlying sleep disorder. In this case, you should speak to your doctor. Diagnosing a sleep disorder brings you one step closer to overcoming it.

If you’re sleep-deprived for an extended period, you might be having trouble sleeping because your body is exhausted, as well as your mind. The following things might be helpful:

Two cups of cappuccino with latte art on wooden background
Reduce Caffeine Intake (Image Source: Shutterstock)
  • Avoiding naps during the day
  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Establishing a bedtime routine
  • Setting your alarm clock every morning for the same time
  • Leaving your phone in the living room instead of taking it with you to bed
  • Working out regularly

These natural techniques may help combat sleep deprivation. Even if you only gain a few extra hours of sleep during the week, you’ll be making important gains for your health. One Harvard study shows benefits from sleeping a couple of hours more on the weekends, which sounds like a great plan to pay off those sleep debts you may have been piling for a long time.

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