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Why Sleep Is Important for Weight Loss

July 20, 2014 | Uncategorized

It’s not uncommon to eat healthfully and exercise regularly, yet notice that your weight loss has plateaued. When this happens, our team always asks:

Are you getting enough sleep?

The reason we ask this is there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that shows sleep is essential to weight loss. Let’s break down some of this data and what it means for your weight loss efforts.

How Sleep Can Affect Appetite and Cravings

In order to manage hunger and cravings properly, your body needs to control two hormones: leptin and ghrelin. The less leptin your body produces, the emptier your stomach will feel; whereas, the more ghrelin your body produces, the hungrier you will feel.

Sleeping less than six hours per night triggers the area of the brain that depresses leptin and stimulates ghrelin production, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Sleep deprivation can also cause a spike in cortisol — the stress hormone linked to fat gain. Cortisol activates the parts of the brain that make you want food. Coupling high cortisol and ghrelin levels can make you feel hungry all the time, even after meals!

A University of Colorado team that studied sleep and diet patterns made some interesting observations: “We found that when people weren’t getting enough sleep they overate carbohydrates,” one of the authors of the study said. “They ate more food, and when they ate food also changed. They ate a smaller breakfast and they ate a lot more after dinner.”

Remarkably, the sleep-deprived eaters consumed more calories during after-dinner snacking than during any other meal. When the group started sleeping more, they ate better overall: less carbohydrates and fats.

Sleep Can Affect the Fat Cells

Lack of sleep can also affect the body at a cellular level. Sleep deprivation changes the biology of fat cells, according to a study from the University of Chicago. When researchers tracked a group of people who reduced sleep by four hours, they noticed the group’s fat cells were less sensitive to insulin. (This is a metabolic change associated with both diabetes and obesity.) The senior author of the study noted, “Metabolically, lack of sleep aged fat cells about 20 years.”

Sleep is Critical to Mental Clarity

So much of dieting and exercising is psychological! It’s easier to make good dietary choices and motivate yourself to go to the gym when you feel mentally clear.

Getting inadequate sleep even one night can impair the activity in your frontal lobe, which controls decision-making. In other words, sleep deprivation impairs your mental clarity and makes it easier to choose unhealthy foods.

Prioritize Sleep

Keep your weight loss efforts on track by getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you have one poor night’s sleep, don’t let it throw you off track; instead, be extra diligent about catching up on sleep the next few nights.

Dr. Plamen Penev, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago who conducted a sleep study on dieters in 2010, said it best: “If your goal is to lose fat, skipping sleep is like poking sticks in your bicycle wheels.”

For more information about sleep and weight loss, please contact Texas Laparoscopic Consultants by calling (713) 264-8024 or sending us an email today.

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