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Why Sleep is Important for Maintaining a Healthy Weight

As people become more sleep-deprived in our fast-paced world, scientists are learning that this deprivation is also a huge contributor to their difficulty in losing weight. It’s hard to imagine that the number of hours you sleep can have so much impact on your ability to shed pounds, but, thanks to two hormones and their role in weight control, those extra forty plus winks can mean the difference between slender and – well- not so slender.

Just when women have had their fill of hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone raging inside and causing mood swings and feminine issues, along come two more that dictate whether or not they can successfully lose weight. These culprits are named ghrelin and leptin, and they have been at constant war with each other since Adam allegedly bit into that first apple and probably couldn’t sleep afterward.

What are Leptin and Ghrelin, and What is Their Function?

Both leptin and ghrelin regulate hunger. Leptin, which, under a microscope, looks like that pretty ribbon you’ve curled with scissors to add a special touch to your Christmas gift, decreases hunger. In ‘non-science’ talk, your fat (adipose tissue) creates leptin and, like a homing pigeon sends it on its way into your circulatory system. From there, it is set free to travel to the hypothalamus which controls such things as thirst, hunger, temperature, and your wake-sleep cycle (circadian cycle). It carries the message that your body has enough food and can stop eating.

Ghrelin, on the other hand, is the dieter’s nemesis and saboteur. It works in a similar manner to leptin, but this ‘carrier pigeon’ brings the opposite news. It tells the hypothalamus you’re hungry, thus increasing your appetite.

Unfortunately, insufficient sleep causes the body to make more ghrelin and lessens leptin production. So, the less you sleep, the more you want to eat. It follows that, unless you have the willpower of robot, you will eat. Of course, the more you eat, the more weight you’ll gain.

Even if you adhere to the same dietary restrictions as your clone, exercise as much, and live the same lifestyle, one of you that is not getting enough sleep will have trouble losing weight. In fact, it may not be a coincidence that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports over 30% of the American population is sleep deprived. Roughly the same statistics are ascribed to obesity.

A recent study found that participants who slept poorly or less than 7 hours a night lost 55% less fat than their counterparts who rested enough. Furthermore, they were hungrier, suffered from low energy, and didn’t feel satisfied with the amount they ate.

How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep? healthy weight loss and sleep

It is recommended that you get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Your body begins to rebel after a mere 4 days of getting less than 6 hours, not only by stimulating ghrelin production but also by causing:

  • Interference with insulin production: Insulin, yet another hormone, is vital. It helps the body to transform starches, sugar, and other nutrients into energy.
  • Mood swings
  • Inattention, confusion, disorientation, and difficulty focusing
  • Exhaustion and lack of will-power, leading to resistance to exercise and other physical exertion
  • A rise in cortisol levels: Cortisol is a stress hormone that activates the brain’s reward center (amygdala), triggering food cravings. High levels of cortisol, when combined with ghrelin activate hunger by blocking brain messages telling you you’re full. Ghrelin and cortisol join forces like two little starving demons, demanding you feed them with anything that isn’t nailed down.
  • Diminishment of mental clarity: Just like having too many shots of tequila, you begin to make poor choices, eating larger portions and selecting fatty, sweet, or otherwise high-caloric food.
  • Onset of muscle loss (atrophy): Your body’s muscle building ability (protein synthesis) begins to fail, resulting in possible of physical injury.
  • Slow wave or deep sleep depletion: Sleep deficit can rob your brain of the recuperation it needs after a busy day. Slow wave sleep is vital to physical growth and the body’s ability to repair and heal itself.

What Can I do to get a Better Night’s Sleep?

There are several things you can do to create better bedtime habits that enable you to get the proper rest you need. Some of these include:

  • Turning your bedroom into your fortress of solitude: Treat it like hallowed grounds for the purposes of intimacy, relaxation, and sleep only. Avoid making it a bouncy house for the kids, a workstation, or an entertainment section complete with 70’ flat screen and enough woofers and tweeters to raise the dead.
  • Adhering to a schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and morning. No matter how tempting it might be to get those extra weekend zzzz’s, disrupting your routine can lead to even more sleep irregularities.
  • Keeping it fresh: Grungy sheets and lingering human odors can be distracting. Change the linen as often as possible and air out the room regularly. You’ll rest better feeling clean sheets against your body and inhaling sweet-scented fabric softener.
  • Establishing a routine: Wind down before bedtime by reading, soaking in a warm bath, taking a soothing shower or meditating. Leave budget worries or to-do lists for daytime.
  • Turning off all electronics at least an hour before retiring. Studies show that these devices emit a short-wavelength bluish light that confuses your internal clock (circadian rhythm) and interfere with your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps encourage sleep.
  • Watching your food and liquid intake: Avoid heavy food before bedtime, along with caffeine-laced beverages, alcohol, soft drinks, sugary snacks, and
  • Sleeping in complete darkness: Even the glow from the alarm clock or a night light prevents melatonin output. If your job requires you to work at night, invest in blackout and/or soundproof
  • Empty your bladder: Void before bedtime so that Mother Nature does not call during a delicious dream.

Everyone goes through periods of insomnia. However, if you experience it on a regular basis and it has become detrimental to your health, weight, and a happy lifestyle, you should consult your doctor.

How Can Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists Help Me?

Lepton, ghrelin, and lack of proper sleep are not the only factors that can lead to dietary failure. Your medical history, current health, lifestyle, genetics, unique metabolism, prescription medications, supplements, vitamins, and even your psychological profile all contribute towards your ability to lose weight successfully.

Your tailored program will be monitored regularly to ensure that your weight loss experience with us not only leads to a slender, fit, and attractive body, but that exercise, good nutrition, and even proper sleep become a welcome and healthy way of life.

To book a free consultation for our weight loss program, call 770.720.7733.