You normally don’t find sleep as a key issue when looking toward a diet program to lose a few pounds. However, physiological reasoning will indicate that sleep can be a significant element in weight gain and the ability to shed a few pounds. A normal sleep cycle (7-9 hours) with a significant amount of deep sleep is essential for maintenance of normal body biochemistry and how our hormones control our metabolism. Just as important as counting calories, eating the right foods and exercising, having consistent and good quality sleep may determine whether your diet efforts are successful.
Insufficient sleep is known to create a metabolic fog similar to being drunk on alcohol where making poor food choices can affect the number of calories and how your body stores them as fat. Not only does fatigue create the urge to eat fatty, sugary foods, but it also tends to make it easy to skip exercise and other beneficial habits. The body secretes 2 key hormones that trigger our feelings of hunger and fullness. These hormones are ghrelin and leptin and are significantly affected by our sleep patterns and quality of sleep. Leptin is released when our body senses that it has enough food and the digestive organs are full. This feeling of fullness stops us from continuing to eat. With sleep deprivation, leptin is significantly reduced creating the tendency to overeat and thus store the excess. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals the brain that it is time to eat in the form of hunger. Ghrelin is increased when we are low on sleep thus giving us the urge to eat more food and eat more frequently having the same effects of putting in more calories than our body needs for functioning. In both of these circumstances, the result is weight gain.
Sleep deprivation is also known to affect reduce insulin sensitivity. Not only does this have significantly unhealthy outcomes in how we create energy for our body, but it causes a difficulty in processing fat in the bloodstream. If the fat in the bloodstream is not used for energy, our system will store it for future energy demands thus resulting in further weight gains. The bigger picture problem here is the increased potential for type II diabetes and all of the cardiovascular and neurological problems that can result from that condition.
Deep sleep is known to be necessary to complete and process our emotional cycles from the time of day when we are awake and in sympathetic nervous system control. Without the completion of these “stress” cycles, our body starts to produce excess cortisol, an adrenal hormone that can have significant negative effects on our body produced excessively. With deprived sleep, cortisol is increased which leads to a conservation of energy and the body’s need to store fat. Cortisol also is known to break down proteins in our musculoskeletal system causing negative responses and the release of C-reactive proteins that lead to inflammation and fluid retention (more weight gain).
So how do we ensure that we are getting the adequate sleep necessary to maintain healthy weight and fat storage? Here are a few things to consider when trying to establish healthy sleep habits:
- Find a mattress that offers the key components of support and pressure point relief to avoid tossing and turning throughout the night.
- Schedule your sleep to ensure that you are giving the appropriate time needed.
- Keep the bedroom for sleeping and avoid television, games, cell phones, etc before bed.
- Avoid heavy meals and alcohol just prior to retiring for the night.
- Avoid sodas, coffee, sweets and caffeinated beverages at least 5-6 hours prior to bedtime.
- Try to block as much light from entering the bedroom as darkness naturally releases sleep hormones such as melatonin.
- Don’t go to bed stressed or angry if at all possible, it makes transitioning to the parasympathetic nervous system difficult.
In conclusion, you can see that trying to maintain healthy weight is very difficult to achieve without the proper length and depth of rest that you achieve each night. A dietary plan to try to lose a few pounds should not ignore the necessity of a good night’s sleep.