Is a Lack of Sleep Keeping You From Losing Weight?

Are you struggling to lose weight even though you are eating a low calorie diet and squeezing plenty of exercise into your day? A lack of sleep may be to blame. Research has shown that those who get less than 6 hours of sleep have much more difficulty losing weight than those who get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.

Sleep and Activity Levels
When your body is not well rested, it tends to conserve energy to prevent you from becoming even more exhausted. As a result, you burn fewer calories throughout the day than you would if you had gotten adequate sleep. In addition to burning fewer calories with the same activity, you are also less likely to partake in additional calorie burning activities. For example, you are less likely to take the stairs instead of the elevator if you are tired. You may park closer to work, get up from your desk less often, and run less when you play outside with your kids. These small declines in activity level add up, causing you to burn significantly fewer calories when you’re tired.

Sleep and Hormones
Another mechanism through which sleep deprivation and weight loss are related has to do with two appetite hormones – ghrelin and leptin. Leptin tells you when to stop eating, and your body produces a lot less of it when you are sleep deprived. This makes you more likely to overeat without even noticing it. Ghrelin stimulates feelings of hunger, and it is released in larger quantities when you’re tired. When your ghrelin levels are elevated, you think you are eating in response to intense hunger, so you don’t notice that you’re eating a lot more than usual. The additional calories from this food add up quickly.

Sleep and Self Control
There may be yet another reason why lack of sleep is making it harder for you to lose weight. When you’re tired, you have less self control, and you become less able to resist the temptation of sweets and snacks. Sleep deprivation also zaps your energy levels, and your body reacts by telling you to eat more. Typically, the foods that you reach for when sleep deprived are high in calories and fat, meaning that you only need to eat a small amount to thwart your dieting efforts. In addition, you’re less likely to spend time cooking a healthy meal when you’re tired, and more likely to swing through a fast food restaurant or prepare unhealthy, pre-packaged, quick meals from the freezer.

If you think that a lack of sleep may be contributing to your weight loss struggle, keep a sleep diary for one week. Write down the time you go to bed each night and the time you wake up every morning. Are you getting at least 7 hours of sleep each and every night? If not, it is time to take action to ensure that you get more sleep. Consider skipping the hour of television you watch before bedtime, or see if you can rearrange your schedule so you don’t have to get up as early. If you make these changes in addition to sticking to a low calorie diet and exercising regularly, you’ll notice that controlling your appetite and making healthy meal choices become much easier.

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