What if I told you there’s a super-effective weight loss technique that costs nothing and doesn’t need a single change in your diet? Yes, it’s true. No, it’s not a magic potion.
It is – wait for it – SLEEP. Yes, saying that that people who sleep more end up eating less (and being less hungry) might be oversimplifying a little too much, but in essence, that’s what multiple studies have found. Along with a host of other facts that have a massive impact on your weight. Read on.
Sleep controls your hunger levels
Constantly feeling a niggling hunger? That doesn’t go away even with proper meals? It may be down to your sleep cycle. Cortisol levels start rising when you’re short on sleep. This shuts down the regions of your brain that make you feel satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time – even if you just ate mammoth portions.
And that’s not all. Cortisol doesn’t just make you crave any food – it specifically makes you crave high calorie foods, adding insult to injury. Research by the American Heart Association shows the sleep deprived usually end up gorging an extra 500 calories a day. This roughly translates to two pounds of weight gain over a month.
All because of simple lack of sleep.
Working out, eating right and still can’t budge those pounds? Poor sleep literally changes your fat cells, making it near-impossible to lose weight. The American Health Association steps in again, with statistics that prove those on a sleep-deprived diet experience a 55% reduction in fat loss compared to their well rested counterparts.
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, when your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess”. This basically means your fat cells become exhausted, dazed and confused when you’re short on sleep – just like the rest of your mind and body. Unfortunately, they can’t be revved up by multiple shots of espresso and within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin drops by more than 30%.
Why’s that bad?
Insulin instructs fat cells to flush away the fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream. When it’s disrupted, these fats keep circulating in your blood, ultimately getting stored away in all the wrong places – such as your liver. And that is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.
You have inane food cravings
Contrary to popular belief, hunger and cravings are not a function of willpower. They are actually controlled by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you, “Put down the fork, I’m full”. So, high levels of leptin keep hunger at bay. Ghrelin, on the other hand, makes you feel hungry, while slowing down your metabolism (hence reducing your calorie-burn) and increasing the amount fat you store.
It’s a cinch to figure out why throwing leptin and ghrelin out of balance is the last thing you need. But sleeping less than 6 hours makes leptin levels plummet and ghrelin levels rise, setting the stage for high calorie feasting after a restless night. QED.
To make a bad situation worse, lack of sleep doesn’t just affect your diet – it also sabotages your workouts. And it’s not just that when you’re suffering from slept debt, everything you do feels tougher. Scientists from Brazil have found that sleep deprivation decreases your body’s protein synthesis, causing muscle loss and creating a higher potential for injuries.
Plus, lack of sleep also slows down the production of growth hormones, which makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise, lowers the fat burn and leads to premature ageing.
Sleep (literally) helps you burn more calories
Another inducement to sleep on time? Your body will burn more calories throughout the day. How? According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, normal sleepers’ resting energy expenditure (the amount of calories burned when you’re not moving) was 5% higher than their tired counterparts. Plus, the former also burned 20% more calories after a meal.
Sleeplessness leads you to poor decisions
Skimping on sleep dulls your brain’s frontal lobe – the region that controls decision-making and impulse control – thereby setting you up for bad decisions. Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain’s reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good, aka energy-dense, high-carb junk foods. In short, while you might be able to squash comfort food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep deprived brain may have trouble saying no to that third doughnut.