When we think of factors that promote weight loss, we usually think about our food intake and our energy burned with exercise. However, there is increasing evidence that adequate sleep may be the third leg of the weight loss stool.
Think about it: if I am at work, sleep-deprived and to boost my energy, I am more likely to reach for another cup of sweetened coffee and may even be tempted by the donut (gasp!) that my coworker left in the break room. On my way home from work, my tired body may resist going to the gym or taking those extra steps I need to boost my pedometer reading. At night, revved up by caffeine, sugar, and junk, I will toss and turn and not get the good quality sleep I need. A vicious downward spiral ensues.
A growing body of research confirms what we experience in our own lives. Dieters who were sleep-deprived for just 4 days experienced markedly less weight loss than subjects who had sufficient sleep. Sleep-deprived subjects even experienced higher pleasure-center activity just being shown pictures of calorie-laden “comfort foods”.
Our body’s hormones are deeply linked with our body weight set point. The hormonal system is complex and incompletely understood, but it is clear that much of our hormonal activity happens when we sleep. Skimp on sleep, we disrupt the hormones. A lot of buzz lately has been on the hormones ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (the satiety one). Insufficient sleep disrupts the delicate balance of these two hormones in unfavorable ways. Sleep deprivation also disrupts levels of cortisol, insulin sensitivity, and overall metabolism.
Here are some ways to improve your sleep and improve your weight:
• Make sleep a priority. Never skimp.
• Get lots of exercise, but not right before bed.
• Avoid caffeine past noon.
• Be cautious with alcohol use and don’t drink alcohol or eat fatty foods before bedtime.
• Do not use electronic gadgets in the hour before bedtime. Don’t keep a TV in the bedroom.
• Make sure your bedroom is dark and noise-free. Use a fan if you need to cover background noise.
• Use your bed for sex and sleep and nothing else.
• Set a regular (and reasonable!) bedtime and wakeup time. Don’t vary by more than an hour, even on the weekend.
• Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual. If you find yourself lying awake thinking anxious thoughts, get out of bed for a few minutes and do a quiet activity like reading. Don’t let your mind associate your bed with those anxious thoughts.
• If you find that you have persistent fatigue, you may want to discuss this with your health care or Health Plus Oregon medical weight loss provider.