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Is There a Link Between Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain?

Improve memory, reduce stress, sharpen attention, lengthen years of life... As if there weren't enough reasons to catch those Zzz's each night, sleep proves to have a large impact on weight!

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Obesity in America continues to rise, as 1 in 3 Americans is considered overweight or obese. This subsequently increases the risk and diagnosis of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Such statistics are often contributed to diet and exercise. However, there is another lifestyle factor that should not be slept on…

In fact, studies have shown those who lose out on sleep are more likely to gain weight. Find out how chronic sleep loss could impact weight and how to overcome such risks.

Sleep and Weight Gain Relationship

Poor sleep and weight gain are likely influenced by unregulated hormones and emotions. A lack of energy to keep active and more time spent awake to eat may play a part as well.

1. Unregulated Hunger and Appetite Hormones

Sleep deprivation can disturb the efficiency of hunger hormones, also known as ghrelin and leptin.

Working together to control appetite, ghrelin stimulates hunger while leptin helps to induce satiety. But if they become unregulated, leptin reduces and ghrelin increases. This ultimately grows the risk of excessive food intake.

Research has found sleep-deprived individuals burn equal calories as those who are well-rested, though they have a net gain of 385 calories per day. Considering it takes about 3,500 calories to gain one pound, it could take less than one month to gain three (or about 36 pounds in just one year)!

2. Exacerbated Emotions

Following a restless night, you may ride the rollercoaster of emotions that wave the sensitivities of irritability, agitation, and sadness. While not all everyone resorts to food, some who experience such feelings turn to food as a comfort mechanism.

Simply stated, sleep loss intensifies emotions which may trigger bouts of emotional eating. And unfortunately, "junk foods" rich in carb and sugar are often the ones craved and consumed during these times.

3. Low Energy Levels

When feeling tired and dealing with low energy, you run the risk of skipping out on a workout. Low energy levels may also justify a high-sugar snack or caffeinated beverage for a quick "pick-me-up."

And unfortunately, continuing or resorting back to a sedentary lifestyle, along with eating more, inevitably leading to weight gain.

4. More Time Spent Awake

There may be only so much one can take until deciding to no longer lie sleeplessly in bed. And between bouts of restlessness and frustration, there is a greater opportunity to hop out of bed and into the kitchen…

Does Sleeping Too Much Cause Weight Gain?

Unfortunately, there is no identified or determined time shown to cause weight gain. However, too much sleep has been linked to other health conditions, such as depression, that can lead to weight gain.

All-in-all, the National Sleep Foundation encourages seven to nine hours each night to nurture both physical and mental health. But aside from the quantifiable number of hours, sleep should be adequate and devoid of tossing and turning throughout the night.

One can ensure a good night's rest by implementing simple day and bedtime rituals.

How to Combat Against Lack of Sleep for Weight Loss Success

The following tips can help you achieve sufficient and adequate sleep on a regular basis. They can likewise be helpful to strengthen good sleep and weight loss relationship.

1. Stick to a sleep schedule and stick to regular sleep and wake times, including on the weekends. To set an appropriate bedtime, think what time is needed to wake up then subtract seven to nine hours of sleep. For instance, if needing to be awake at 6:30 a.m., aim to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. to ensure meeting sleep recommendations.

2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual such as listening to music, reading a book, and taking a warm bath.

3. Avoid daily naps if having difficulty falling asleep at night. If deciding to nap, stick to 20 minutes for the utmost benefits.

4. Keep caffeine intake in the morning hours and give up its intake in the afternoon and evening. But beyond coffee, caffeinated products include soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, and chocolate.

5. Include at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Incorporate both cardio and strength training to also improve fitness levels.

6. Make sure the bedroom is conducive to sleep. This includes generating a cool climate, shutting off all lights, and turning off all noise distractions.

7. Sleep with a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure they free of any allergens and have not exceeded their life expectancy of nine to 10 years.

8. Become exposed to bright light in the morning and limit it at night. Doing so helps to keep circadian rhythms in check. Also, turn off all electronics that emit blue light.

9. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes in the evening, as they can disrupt sleep. Yes, a glass of wine may induce feelings of tiredness. However, alcohol interferes with natural sleep cycles and can be quite damaging in the long run and disrupt sleep quality altogether.

10. Avoid eating large meals for at least two to three hours leading up to bedtime. Try one of these healthy bedtime snacks if still hungry to relieve nighttime hunger pangs.

11. Use the bed for sleep, keeping work materials, computers, etc. out of the sleeping environment.

12. Cure nagging bedtime hunger with one of these healthy midnight snack ideas to also help you lose weight.

13. Consult with a primary care doctor or sleep specialist if still having difficulty falling asleep. A number of health and sleep disorders may impede on sleep quantity and quality, including obesity, sleep apnea, and arthritis. Certain medications may also have a negative impact on sleep cycles.

A healthcare professional can help treat the underlying conditions to promote better, restful sleep. They can also recommend safe products for better sleep, including melatonin supplements.

Reference:
Healthy Sleeping Tips. National Sleep Foundation.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on December 11, 2019.

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