When you think about losing weight, sleep may not always be the first thing that comes to mind. You may think you need to;
Step 1. Review my diet
Step 2. Dust off my running shoes
Step 3. Renew that gym membership
But losing weight and staying fit and healthy is about more than what you eat and how many times you work out. What about the work that happens while you snooze?
Like all weight loss methods, getting a full eight hours of sleep won’t be a quick fix. However, setting and sticking to a sleep schedule will be beneficial long-term as you create a routine for your body to follow.
Let’s explore four ways that sleep can help you maintain or reach a healthy weight. Keep the following lessons in mind when developing your sleep routine!
Burn more calories while you snooze.
Sleep experts are now suggesting that getting the right amount of sleep encourages a healthy metabolism. While this is true, how many calories you burn while asleep also depends on other factors: weight, height, age, gender and activity level.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average woman in Australia weighs 71.1 kg while the average man is 85.9 kg. Based on these averages, women burn 65.5 calories for every hour of sleep. This equates to 524 calories burned if sleeping for the recommended 8 hours, that’s 35 minutes of boxing!
In comparison men on average burn 79 calories for every hour of sleep. This is a total of 635 calories burned for the recommended 8 hours sleep – that’s close to the same as a 30 minute run!
Exercise more frequently.
One of the main reasons why getting enough sleep is important to weight loss is that it provides you with the drive needed to stick to your goals. Research has shown that people who are sleepy often lack motivation. This leads to less exercise and opting for sedentary activities instead, such as watching TV.
Although exercising when you are tired can be difficult, staying active is recommended. Dr Banks says even just incidental exercise is good for you, so get those steps in where you can!
Feel fuller, longer.
Hunger-regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin have big roles in controlling appetite and body fat and can be out of whack in obese subjects, dieters, and those who don’t sleep enough. Leptin decreases hunger so, when it comes to weight loss, the more leptin, the better. Ghrelin on the other hand, is the hormone responsible for increasing hunger. These hormones can become unbalanced when you starting skimping on sleep, causing greater levels of hunger and potentially leading to overeating.
How leptin affects you depends on several factors: how well-fed you are, how much fat mass you have and your individual hormonal environment (which can vary depending on your gender).
Reduce your cravings for unhealthy food.
When you’re short on sleep it’s easy to lean on a full fat coffee to get your brain humming, and maybe a sugar or two for that extra kick. When you’re overtired your brain reward centre becomes overactive and looks for hormones that make you feel good. This means while you may have no problems kicking those comfort food cravings when you feel well-rested, your sleep-deprived brain may have trouble saying no to that cheesy pizza or slice of cake.
Skipping sleep sets your brain up to make bad decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control. It reduces your mental clarity and in turn, your ability to make good decisions.
Basically, the more hours you sleep, the better your brain functions and therefore the better you are at making rational decisions – like sipping on lemon water in the mornings instead of a chocolatey cappuccino.
Dr Siobhan Banks from the Sleep Health Foundation believes that making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy eating pattern is the first step.
“Be aware that your guard might be down when you’re sleep deprived,” she said.
“[When this happens] you might be more likely and more tempted to eat some of those foods that are high in fat or high in carbohydrates — the comfort foods. Try to choose something a little more healthy.”
Make sure you consider all facets of health – diet, exercise and sleep – as part of a positive feedback loop. If you’re well rested you’ll be feeling more motivated to exercise and make better food decisions, which in turn will aid in improving the quality of sleep you’re getting and facilitate your weight loss journey. ￼￼￼
Find out more about how sleep helps with weight loss here.