When trying to lose some weight, diet and exercise are typically considered as the two key aspects that will help you achieve the desired results. Still, sleep is an often-ignored lifestyle factor that also has a major role.
The recommended sleep period for adults is seven to nine hours a night, but lots of people sleep for less than this. Research has shown that sleeping less than seven hours is directly connected to having greater body fat, enhanced risk of obesity, and can also affect how easily you lose weight on a calorie-controlled diet.
Sleep is Vital for Weight Loss
Usually, the goal of weight loss is normally to decrease body fat while keeping as much muscle mass as possible. Not getting the correct amount of sleep can decide how much fat is lost as well as how much muscle mass you retain on a calorie-restricted diet.
One study found that sleeping for five and a half hours per night over a two-week period while following a calorie-restricted diet resulted in less fat loss in comparison to sleeping 8.5 hours per night. Also, it resulted in a greater loss of fat-free mass, including muscle.
Another study had come up with similar results throughout an eight-week period when sleep was decreased by only one hour each night for five nights of the week. These results demonstrated that even catch-up sleep during the weekend may not be sufficient to reverse the negative impacts of sleep deprivation.
Metabolism, Appetite, and Sleep
There are a few reasons why a shorter sleep span is linked to higher body weight and impact weight loss. These include changes in metabolism, appetite, and food selection. Sleep leverages two important appetite hormones in our body – leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin is a hormone that reduces appetite, while ghrelin can stimulate the appetite. One research found that sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin and decreases leptin. Another study, which had 1,024 adults participate, also found that short sleep was linked to higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin. This mix could enhance a person’s appetite, making calorie restriction more challenging to follow, and may make a person more prone to overeat.
Therefore, increased food intake because of the changes in appetite hormones may result in weight gain – so, getting a good night sleep should be a priority.
Besides these changes in appetite hormones, decreased sleep has also been associated with food selection and the way the brain sees food. Scientists have found that regions of the brain accountable for reward are more active in response to food after sleep deprivation in comparison to people who had a good sleep.
This could clarify why sleep-deprived people snack more often and usually choose carbohydrate-rich foods as well as sweet snacks, in comparison to those who get enough sleep.
Less sleep also impacts metabolism, mainly glucose metabolism. When food is consumed, our bodies produce insulin, a hormone that helps to process the glucose in the blood. But sleep deprivation can damage our bodies’ response to insulin, decreasing its capacity to manage glucose.
Sleep Loss and Health Conditions
We may be able to recover the occasional sleep loss, but in the long term, this could end up taking a toll on our health and develop certain conditions, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Research has shown that a single night of sleep deprivation is sufficient to affect the insulin response to glucose consumption in healthy young men. Considering that sleep-deprived people already tend to eat foods high in glucose, the impaired ability to process glucose can worsen things.
A surplus of glucose could be transformed into fatty acids and stored as fat. Generally, this can accumulate over the long term, which leads to weight gain. Still, physical activity may show promise as a countermeasure against the negative effect of poor sleep.
Exercise and Sleep Deprivation
Exercise has a positive influence on appetite by decreasing ghrelin levels and increasing levels of peptide YY, a hormone that is produced by the gut and is linked to the feeling of being satisfied and full.
After exercise, people are prone to eat less, more so when the energy required by physical activity is considered. Still, it is not known yet if this remains in the context of sleep deprivation.
Research has also demonstrated that exercise training may protect against the metabolic damages that result from poor sleep by enhancing the body’s response to insulin, leading to better glucose control. There has also been observed the benefits of just a single session of exercise on glucose metabolism after sleep deprivation. Although this shows promise, research is yet to determine the role of long-term exercise in people with sleep restrictions.
It is, however, definitely clear that sleep is vital for losing weight. A lack of sleep can enhance appetite by changing hormones, makes us more prone to consume unhealthy foods, and impacts the way body fat is lost while counting our calories.