The foundation of just about any weight loss program seems to be generally the same – eat less, work out more and get a good night’s sleep.
The benefits of diet and exercise are pretty obvious: when you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight. However, the rest part of that equation is not so obvious. What are the benefits of sleep as it relates to weight loss… do you lose weight while you sleep?
Well – not exactly. Various studies conclude that getting the recommended amount of sleep can help you avoid excessive weight gain and even lose more weight over time. However, don’t expect to drop 10 pounds overnight… proper sleep supports weight loss in a more indirect, long-term way.
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5 Ways Sleep Aids in Weight Loss
1) Sleep Gives You More Energy
After a good night’s sleep, you’re more likely to have the energy to dominate your daily workout… or just be more active in general. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Pick a further parking stall and get a few extra steps in. And as a bonus, exercise also helps you sleep better, so improved sleeping habits can be the start of a successful all-around wellness cycle.
2) Rest Repairs and Rejuvenates Your Body
Sleep is the primary time the body recovers from the daily grind – including exertion, strain or injuries from physical activities like exercise. So as you sleep, your body works to generate new cells to rebuild torn or damaged muscle tissues.
Of course, exercise is an important part of any weight loss routine – but recovery is just as important. If you don’t get the rest your body needs to recover from a workout, you put yourself at risk for serious injury.
3) Helps Curb Hunger
A recent study performed by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that well-rested people ate about 300 fewer calories each day than those who did not get enough sleep. This is likely due to the fact that when you don’t get enough sleep, your body is thrown into a sense of disarray.
This state of confusion can result in a series of chemical imbalances, including an underproduction of hormones that may cause you to feel hungry when your body really doesn’t even need food for nourishment.
Leptin and ghrelin are both appetite hormones which are generated almost exclusively during sleep, meaning people who don’t get enough rest will feel less satiated and typically end up eating more than they need to.
4) Sleep Also Helps The Body Metabolize Fat
Within less than four days of insufficient rest, your body’s ability to process insulin is reduced significantly. Insulin is needed to convert sugar, starch and other food into energy – so without it, your body can’t properly process sugars and starches and ends up storing them as fat.
5) Guides You Toward Making Better Decisions
A lack of sleep often results in bad decisions because we are simply too tired to think clearly. When we’re running on fumes, it’s easier to hit up a drive-thru or grab a donut from the break room than it is to plan and prepare a healthy, filling meal.
This is because sleep deprivation dulls activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is the center for decisions and impulse control. This is a big problem for those of us trying to lose weight – as one night of poor rest could result in an entire day of our diets going out the window
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Ready for more rest? Before you move up your bedtime or set your morning alarm for later, it’s important to understand how much sleep you actually need.
After all, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing – and getting too much sleep can also have adverse effects on your health and fitness goals.
The National Sleep Foundation recognizes that everyone has different needs. But generally, they report that the amount of sleep you need is most closely determined by your age.
Teenagers need anywhere between 8-10 hours while young adults through 64 year-olds require about 7-9 hours. And while there are a lot of stereotypes about senior citizens and naptime, adults over the age of 65 actually only need 7-8 hours of sleep per day.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Once you determine how much sleep you need, you may need to make some lifestyle adjustments to ensure you can reach your sleep goals. Here are a four simple things you can do in order to rest easier:
1) Get in a Routine and Stick to it
Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every single day. This might be hard to pull off on weekends and holidays, but just do the best you can. The more consistent you are, the better your body will adjust to a set sleep-wake cycle.
2) Exercise Every Day
In order to rest better at night, it’s important to burn more energy off during the day. Just be careful not to exercise too close to your bedtime… exercise can produce a stimulating effect on the body which may keep you awake.
If this seems to be an issue for you, strive for morning workouts or as early in the afternoon as possible.
3) Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine
Steer clear of this stuff in the few hours before bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants, meaning they will keep you awake until they wear off. And while a glass of wine or cold beer before bed might sound like a nice nightcap… it will only relax you for so longer. Once alcohol wears off, it can disrupt sleep.
4) Don’t Sleep With Your Smart Phone!
Research has shown that using laptops, tablets or smart phones right before bedtime disrupts sleep… so pick a time to unplug from your electronic devices and stick to it.
Conclusion: Do You Lose Weight While You Sleep?
While you don’t shed tons of weight in your sleep, rest is definitely an important factor in achieving your overall weight loss goals.
A good night’s sleep gives you more energy, helps repair your body, curbs hunger, aids in valuable metabolic functions and leads to all-around improved decision making.
However, this doesn’t mean you should start sleeping all the time… it’s all about finding the balance that’s right for your body! Follow the guidelines provided for your age by the National Sleep Foundation or consult your physician about how much rest is right for you.