By now you’ve probably read the numerous reports detailing the effect that sleep deprivation has on our affecting our moods, impacting our health, and reducing our cognitive abilities. By now you probably know that sleep deprivation has a huge impact on our weight. You most likely read the reports that sleep deprivation particularly causes weight gain. These reports suggest that people “who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep.” Here’s a thought to ponder though...does the reverse have the opposite effect?
Who gets enough sleep anyway?
The amount of sleep you get is just as important as eating the right food in the right portion size and getting the right amount of exercise. So, if you’re an adult, getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is the average for optimum health. However, hitting the required hours is easier said than done. A whopping 39.8 % of the population of Australian adults is sleep deprived.
If sleeping less leads to weight gain, does sleeping more result in weight loss?
Before you get your hopes up and never leave the bed, the answer is NO. There are no studies that show that the more you sleep, the more weight you lose. There is an optimal number of hours of sleep required for the body and brain to recharge. Beyond that, you risk developing problems such as back pain and heart disease, among a few. So, tempting as it may be to sleep in and catch up on our sleep deficit for the whole weekend, it would do us good to aim for 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep instead.
Lack of sleep causes stress within
Sleep is the equivalent of food for the brain. If you get too little of it, that leads to a cortisol spike. Cortisol is a hormone produced when the body is under stress. It is useful because it triggers the body’s fight or flight response. However, being sleep deprived for long periods of time means you are subjecting your body to this hormone for a prolonged period, meaning your body believes it is constantly under stress.
This hormone also triggers other responses like altering or shutting down bodily functions deemed non essential. One of the things it alters is your metabolism or your ability to use carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Cortisol signals the body’s ability to conserve fuel or burn fat, meaning you’re likely to hang on to it. It also changes your ability to process insulin - the nifty hormone needed to change carbs and other food into energy. Impaired insulin sensitivity means you’re very likely to store fat.
It’s no so much that if you sleep more, you lose more weight, but that if you sleep less, you impair your metabolism and thus gain more weight.
Create a bedtime ritual
So adjust your schedules and aim for getting the required amount of sleep. Steer clear of caffeine after 2pm. Create a bedtime ritual that will signal to your brain and body that it’s time to sleep. Keep your bedroom at an optimal temperature, remove screens, and turn off the lights. Go to bed at the same time each night (yes, even on weekends if you can). Lastly, keep the bedroom as a place of rest and relaxation.