Sleep Off the Weight

We tend to brag about how little sleep we get, as if being tired all the time is a sign of a better life. Going to bed early or sleeping for 8 hours seems self-indulgent. But sleep is one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and to lose weight. On average, you should get 7.5 hours per night.

According to Michael Breus, PhD, the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Arizona, “if you are a five-hour sleeper and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.”1

Here’s the top five ways sleep, or lack of sleep, affects you.

1. Hormones

There are two key hormones that affect the way we eat. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you to eat, and leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating. When you don’t get enough sleep, you have less leptin and more ghrelin, so you are eating more and feeling hungry even when your body doesn’t need the food. And that means weight gain. TIP: When you get enough sleep, you won’t feel that hormonal urge to eat more than you need. If you are feeling tired and ravenous, count your calories to measure how much to eat, instead of relying on hunger.

2. Metabolism

Not getting enough sleep affects your metabolism, making it sluggish, so it’s harder to lose weight. TIP: Getting enough quality sleep keeps your metaoblism working properly, allowing you to burn calories at a normal rate.

3. Sugar Cycle

When we are sleepy, we often reach for something that will give us a burst of energy. Sugary snacks and drinks provide a quick energy but then there’s a sharp crash. That starts the cycle all over again, leaving us craving sugars all the time and packing on the pounds. TIP: To give yourself sustained energy, combine protein and fiber with slow burning carbs. For a better pick-me-up, have some fresh fruit. The natural sugars will give you energy without the crash.

4. Caffeine

Of course we also reach for energy drinks and coffee to give us that jolt. While caffeine provides stimulation when you want it, if you are consuming too much, it also stimulates you when you are trying to sleep, creating a cycle of poor sleep that never ends. TIP: The best choice for caffeine is black coffee. Stay away from lattes or other coffee drinks with tons of sugar and fat. Try to limit yourself to one or two cups and only in the mornings so it won’t affect your sleep later.

5. Fatigue

When you are tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. When you aren’t sleeping enough you are less likely to workout. You are also less likely to exercise willpower when you feel physically depleted. So being tired becomes an excuse for being inactive and making unhealthy choices. TIP: Don’t indulge yourself just because you are tired. Light exercise like a brisk walk or yoga can actually give you a boost of energy.