Sleep and Weight Loss
These studies supposedly stemmed from questions regarding weight gain and inactivity and laziness. The surprising discovery, however, was that those who slept too little were even more likely to gain weight than those who slept more.
However, this past year has included additional reports and studies which have shed some additional light on the subject.
These reports then, answer the challenging question:
How are sleep and weight loss related?
Simple question with a complex answer. Let’s first examine…
What Does Lack of Sleep Actually Do?
Despite the number of studies analyzing the connection between sleep and weight loss, it is still uncertain whether it is actually the lack of sleep which causes the weight gain or if it is the side effects of lack of sleep which leads to weight gain. If it is the latter, the question is whether such impulses and hormonal drives can be controlled.
Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, the clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders, states that sleep deprivation leads to a vicious cycle. At the very least, people are more likely to reach for unhealthy food as energy sources. In fact, lack of sleep can lead to a series of bad decisions throughout the course of the day from doughnuts at breakfast to greasy pizza take out for dinner. Unfortunately, these foods end up leading to folks feeling even more tired than before.
At the very least, lack of sleep stimulates the “hedonic stimulus” which increases the desire to eat poor food choices. This research was confirmed in two studies, one published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the other presented at the American Heart Association. In the presentation at the American Heart Association, the group which slept less than 7 hours a night ate more than 500 calories the next day.
How Does Too Much Sleep Affect Weight Loss?
Sleeping a little beyond the recommended 7 – 8 hours of sleep can cause some health risks, but weight gain does not appear to be one of them. Indeed, in the studies mentioned above, those who slept beyond 7 hours tended to function better because they felt fully rested. However, once you sleep past 9 hours and head towards 10 hours of sleep or more, sleep can cause the pounds to creep up once again.
In “Too Much Sleep May Not Be So Bad for Weight Gain,” another study goes head to head with this assertion, demonstrating that excess sleep does not result in the same intensity of negative side effects. The physicians and researchers involved with these studies believe that it may actually be connected to particular genes within the body which may be triggered through too much or too little sleep rather than sleep in general.
What is the Right Amount of Sleep Then?
Both sleeping too long and sleeping too little triggers the release of hormones which increase the appetite and decrease the metabolism in certain individuals. However, despite this, Dr. Kristen Hairston, MD of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center recommends that individuals follow their own bodies’ instructions as regards the proper amount of sleep. It’s important to rest when your body is weary, and if it seems that you are sleeping for excessive periods, then you should consult with a physician to ensure that you are in good health.
The amount of sleep which you may need on a given night may vary. A good weight loss program actually focuses on listening to your body as a whole. There are many signals which your body can send to tell you what it needs whether that need is sleep, food, water, or activity. Learning these triggers can help you to meet your body’s needs and better equip yourself to make healthy choices throughout the day. These healthy choices can not only improve your sleep, but also help with a common ultimate goal of losing weight.
Listening to your body takes time. You may find that you misread the cues at first. And sometimes signals can get mixed up. To help yourself understand these signals, you can keep a journal to monitor them.
Mann, Denise “Coping With Excessive Sleepiness,” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/lack-of-sleep-weight-gain (2012).
“Sleep is Integral to Weight Loss, Study Suggests,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/sleep-weight-loss_n_1891171.html (2012).
Kim Carollo, “Too Much Sleep May Not Be So Bad for Weight Gain,” ABC Health, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/sleep-linked-obesity-previously-believed/story?id=16246867 (2012).
Adam Bean, “Is Too Much Sleep Unhealthy,” Rodale, http://www.rodale.com/excessive-sleep?page=0,1 (2012).