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Improve your sleep to jump start your weight loss

by | Feb 23, 2016 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

How much sleep are you getting? If you’re anything like us, it’s most likely not enough. Think about the last time you felt groggy or out of sorts due to lack of sleep. Did you eat a little more that day? Maybe get take-out instead of cooking? Did your diet subsequently stall? You’re not alone. Read on to find out how sleep deprivation relates to weight gain.

The CDC conducted a 2-year study in obesity-related illnesses in children aged 6-17 and found a 437% increase in hospital discharges for sleep apnea. Similar numbers ring true for obese adults. Why? Significant weight gain, particularly in the neck and trunk regions, impact breathing ability. What makes it worse? Sleep apnea can lead to constant fatigue, which discourages obese patients from exercising, which further prevents possible weight loss. But here’s some good news: experts say that as little as 10% weight loss can lead to significant improvement in sleep apnea, thus aiding further weight loss.

According to WebMd, two-thirds of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Why does that matter? When you’re running low on sleep, your brain’s frontal lobe function is diminished, so you’re more likely to make poor decisions, like going a little overboard at lunch. Simply put, lack of sleep can make us a little bit lazy, which can make our weight loss happen a bit slower.

Sleep also affects our hunger-regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin. When these hormones are get low, we feel hungier. Our stress levels are also easily elevated when we’re tired, another emotion that can trigger the desire for unhealthy food. Think about it: recall your most recent sleep-deprived day. Did you grab a bagel on the way to work because you slept in, instead of your usual yogurt? Did you acquiesce to your coworker’s badgering you to go to Chipotle? Did you order in dinner instead of cooking? None of these choices is inherently bad, but when compounded by habitual sleep deprivation, they can turn into a pattern and lead to weight gain.

To re-prioritize sleep, some experts recommend you stop viewing sleep as “downtime,” and look at it instead as a different way of feeding your body. Every organ and function in the human body requires sleep, so it should always be a priority. Plus, it can catalyze your weight loss!

Doctors recommend adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re finding that challenging, try starting a sleep diary. The diary can help you keep track of your habits and can often pinpoint causes of interrupted or lack of sleep. Monitoring your habits might bring awareness to a pattern, and put you in better touch with your sleep habits.

To create healthy sleep habits, you need to make a few choices. First, keep a regular sleep schedule that applies even on the weekends. You should be going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. Though it’s tempting to sleep in on weekends, you’ll find it’s actually more disruptive to change up the pattern. Even if you get more sleep, you may feel more fatigued throughout the day, simply because you’ve disrupted your body’s natural clock.

Next, develop a regular, calming bedtime ritual. It doesn’t have to include incense and candles. Simply having a regular set of actions or movements to do before bed will help signal to your brain that sleep is on the way.

Eliminate the negatives. Research studying the harmful effects of screen time before bed is well supported by now. Though it may seem calming to watch your favorite show before shutting the lights, the brightness messes with your sleep quality. Try to shut off screens at least an hour before sleeping. If you find it necessary to use screens before sleep, try to dim them as much as you can. Other potential sleep hindrances? Alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes. All three are shown to diminish REM-quality sleep and leave you feeling groggy. Try to cut them down as much as you can if you’re experiencing choppy nights of sleep.

Set your environment. If you’re lying somewhere for 7-8 hours every day, you want it be be comfortable. Make sure your bed is actually doing what you need it to do – same goes for pillows. Find your ideal temperature – some prefer it cooler to sleep, but generally, 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit pleases most folks. Finally, try to get your room as dark as possible. Any light filtering in might disrupt your sleep.  

If none of these options helps, seek a doctor’s assistance. Getting enough sleep is vital at all times, and everyone deserves to feel well-rested. If you feel your weight loss is stalling, re-evaluate your sleep patterns. Getting enough sleep just might be the trick to losing those final five pounds!