How Regular Restful Sleep Helps With Weight Loss

Most people realize the importance of diet and exercise for weight loss and maintenance, but tend to be less informed about the benefits sleep has for our metabolism.

Without adequate sleep, we may feel too tired to cook a healthy meal, and less motivated to exercise. This fatigue-based erosion of healthy habits can, over time, contribute to weight gain. However, the link between lack of sleep and weight issues also involves internal processes beyond our conscious control.

Sleep and Hormones

A lot goes on in the body as we enjoy our nightly shuteye, including the release of various hormones such as growth hormones, the stress inducer cortisol, and the hormone those with diabetes know so well, insulin. When our sleep is disturbed, the timely release of these hormones is disrupted.

Two other chemicals affected by sleep, ghrelin and leptin, are often called our hunger, or appetite hormones:

  • Leptin is primarily manufactured in fat cells, and it helps our body keep track of its energy needs. High leptin levels suppress our appetite.
  • Ghrelin is manufactured primarily in the stomach, but also in the brain. It stimulates our appetite, triggering the impulse to eat.

These two hormones help keep our weight in check by motivating us to eat when the body requires energy, and telling us to stop eating when the body is satisfied. Unfortunately, too little slumber throws this appetite regulating system off track.

Ghrelin levels rise when we are short on sleep—and while ghrelin is peaking our resistance to pastries, chips, and cookies plummets. This is why exhausted individuals might find themselves snacking throughout the day, but not feeling satisfied. An occasional day of fatigue-induced snacking is not that problematic for our weight, but weeks of it can be.

Getting Enough Zs

Getting enough sleep to keep hunger hormones activated and in balance is often challenging for people managing diabetes. Those struggling to fall or stay asleep should consult with their doctor to make sure nighttime insulin levels are sufficiently regulated, and to rule out medical problems such as sleep apnea. It’s also helpful to:

  • Identify possible sleep disruptors within the home. For instance, our bedroom might too noisy, warm, or bright to allow sound sleep; maybe the mattress or pillows need replacing.
  • Unplug early: the light from our digital devices, and the mental stimulation gadgets create can keep us wide-eyed into the wee hours. Putting our tablets and phones down at least a half hour before bedtime allows the brain and body to relax, and prepare to drift off.
  • Go to bed and arise at the same times every day, and follow a simple pre-bedtime ritual (e.g., listening to soft music, doing some gentle stretches).

Without adequate rest so many of our body’s systems enter a state of imbalance. So, anything we can do to ensure ourselves restful slumber will benefit our overall health, sense of well-being, and maybe even our waistline.

Source: Mayo Clinic

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