The Better Weight loss Secret: Prioritize Sleep

The connection between sleep and weight gain is hard to ignore. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who are sleep deprived are a third more likely to gain 33 pounds (fat) over the next 16 years than those who receive just seven hours of sleep per night. And with all of the connections to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure, and cognitive failure, the need to sleep goes far beyond just looking better and seeing results from your diet and exercise efforts.fat

Sleep Controls Your Diet

The debate about the best way to achieve a healthy weight always revolves around eating and movement. If you want to look better, the most common suggestion is “eat less and move more.” But it’s not that simple, or even accurate. Sometimes you want to eat less and move more, but it seems impossible to do so. And there might be a good reason: Between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to sleep enough. Or maybe, more importantly, you don’t realize that sleep is the key to being rewarded for your diet and fitness efforts.

Not sleeping enough—

less than seven hours of sleep per night—can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, dieters were put on different sleep schedules. When their bodies received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was cut in half—even though they were on the same diet. What’s more, they felt significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. Overall, those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts.

Poor Sleep Changes Your Fat Cells

fatThink about the last time you had a bad night of sleep. How did you feel when you woke up? Exhausted. Dazed. Confused. Maybe even a little grumpy? It’s not just your brain and body that feel that way—your fat cells do too. When your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess.” The term was coined by University of Chicago researchers who analyzed what happened after just four days of poor sleep—something that commonly happens during a busy week. One late night at work leads to two late nights at home, and next thing you know, you’re in sleep debt.

But it’s just four nights, so how bad could it be? You might be able to cope just fine. After all, coffee does wonders. But the hormones that control your fat cells don’t feel the same way.

Sleep Sabotages Gym Time

Unfortunately the disastrous impact spreads beyond diet and into your workouts. No matter what your fitness goals are, having some muscle on your body is important. Muscle is the enemy of fat—it helps you burn fat and stay young. But sleep (or lack thereof) is the enemy of muscle. Scientists from Brazil found that sleep debt decreases protein synthesis (your body’s ability to make muscle), causes muscle loss, and can lead to a higher incidence of injuries.

1. Poor sleep means less slow wave sleep, which is when the most growth hormone is released.

2. As previously mentioned, a poor night of rest increases the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down the production of growth hormone. That means that the already reduced production of growth hormone due to lack of slow wave sleep is further reduced by more cortisol in your system. It’s a vicious cycle.

While there’s no hard number that applies to all people, a good rule of thumb is to receive between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and to make sure that one poor night of sleep isn’t followed up with a few more. It might not seem like much, but it could make all the difference and mean more than any other health decision you make.

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