As a kid, you probably fought your parents tooth and nail over naptime, bedtime or any time that involved you having to go to sleep. As an adult, you may count down the minutes until you can crawl back into your bed. If you’re lucky enough to get 8 hours of sleep, your body thanks you more than you know. If you’re not, your body is likely to respond with grumpiness, fatigue and forgetfulness. Your body may also be punishing you for lack of sleep by making it more difficult for you to lose weight. So how exactly does getting a good night of sleep contribute to weight loss? It all comes down to hormones.
Sleep and Weight Loss
There are two hormones involved in telling you when to eat and when you should stop eating. Ghrelin is the hormone that says “Hey, you’re hungry, let’s eat.” Leptin is the hormone that says “Okay, stop now. I think you’ve had enough.” When you’re sleep-deprived, your body produces more ghrelin and less leptin. As a result, your body is constantly telling you to eat without signaling you to stop. To add insult to injury, your metabolism is also slower when you haven’t had a good night of sleep so you’re not using the calories you are eating as efficiently. This not only hinders your progress, it can actually lead to weight gain.
What Can You Do?
The most obvious answer to correcting the problems caused by lack of sleep is to get more sleep. If your issue is simply that you aren’t going to bed early enough, get to bed at a decent hour. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night (although eight is ideal). For some of you, though, it may not be that easy. It’s estimated that 40 million Americans have trouble sleeping.
If you’re one of those with sleeping trouble, you may benefit from a sleep aid, like melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that’s naturally produced by the pineal gland in your brain. The hormone controls your circadian rhythm – your biological clock that tells you when it’s time to go to bed and when it’s time to wake up. If your melatonin levels are out of whack, it can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and sleep deprivation. Melatonin supplements provide the body with synthetic melatonin – which mimics the effects of the natural melatonin produced by your brain — to help you get to sleep faster and keep you snoozing throughout the night.
You can also increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep by limiting your caffeine intake and watching what you eat before bed. If you like to drink coffee in the afternoon, switch to decaf after 2 p.m. Avoid caffeinated sodas and energy drinks. Try not to eat a big meal close to bedtime. If it’s late and you’re hungry, have a light snack like a bowl of cereal to tide you over until the morning. Getting enough sleep should always be one of your top priorities.