Feel like you’re doing everything right during the day but still haven’t been able to lose as much weight as you want? Check in on how you’re sleeping at night. Sleep could be affecting your progress much more than you realize. More than one third of American adults are not getting enough sleep, and the same amount of Americans are obese. This isn’t just a coincidence. When you’re short on sleep, your body is at a disadvantage mentally and physically due to a variety of factors.
When you’re tired, you are statistically more likely to make less healthy decisions and be more impulsive. The brownie you have no problem politely turning down when you’re well rested may suddenly be very hard to resist when offered to you while sleep deprived. The amygdala, your body’s reward system and regulator of emotions, takes control when you don’t sleep enough. In turn, this increases cravings for unhealthy foods, and makes you more likely to opt for higher carb snacks.
Whether or not you’re looking to lose weight, it’s well known that exercise is a crucial part of any healthy lifestyle. But when you’re tired and lacking energy, you’re much more likely to skip your workout. Not getting adequate exercise has a plethora of negative health effects such as increased stress, and reduced muscle mass. These effects can potentially lead to a slower metabolism. Additionally, too little sleep can push your body into survival mode, forcing itself to conserve energy for your hours spent awake. This can be a major roadblock on a weight loss journey.
Missing out on sleep greatly impacts your hormones. And it can take some time to get these internal secretions back on track. Your cortisol, a stress hormone, will spike, leaving you with increased feelings of anxiety. The hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin are impacted as well. Ghrelin signals hunger in the brain, and lack of sleep can lead to the secretion of more of it. Leptin suppresses hunger and tells your brain when you’re full, and lack of sleep leads to less of it. Additionally, as few as four days of inadequate hours of sleep will impact the body’s ability to process insulin. The pancreas, a digestive organ that regulates blood sugar, will become less able to process fats from the bloodstream, and will default to storing them as fat in your body.
Though there are many lifestyle components that contribute to weight loss, one of the easiest ways to ensure you are making progress is through sleep. Perhaps easier than meal prepping or exercising, sleeping doesn’t require you to be doing anything at all, just relax!
Emily is a marketing and communications specialist and a former elite level figure skater.