Sleep deprivation can undo all the gains you make through diet and exercise and can make you 33 pounds fatter than if you had enough sleep.
By Dawn Flemming
A common problem with aging is the problem of weight loss. As you grow older, your metabolism slows and you gain more weight as a result.
The common answer to weight gain is that you have to eat less, eat the right foods and exercise more if you want to fix your metabolism, burn more calories and thereby lose weight.
There is nothing wrong with this advice, but you need to understand that this isn’t the whole picture. There are other factors that are just as important as the number of calories you chunk in or the number of minutes you crack in at the treadmill.
Probably the most important factor in determining weight loss and the impact of your diet and exercise is the quality of your sleep. There are many times that people eat right and exercise but they don’t seem to lose weight. Case studies show that there is a direct link between lack of sleep and the inability to lose weight.
Effect of Sleep on Diet
In a study conducted by Annals of Internal Medicine, it was shown that lack of sleep, meaning less than seven hours of sleep per night reduced or even undid the benefits of diet and exercise. Here is how Shape summarizes the study:
In the study, dieters were put on different sleep schedules. When their bodies received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was cut in half—even though they were on the same diet. What’s more, they felt significantly hungrier, were less satisfied after meals, and lacked energy to exercise. Overall, those on a sleep-deprived diet experienced a 55 percent reduction in fat loss compared to their well-rested counterparts.
Think about it, you have a 55% reduction in fat loss if you are sleeping less than 7 hours a night. So if you lack sleep, you will end up losing maybe 5 pounds in two months while dieting rather than 10 pounds if you slept properly.
Lack of Sleep and Fat Cells
Sleep deprivation leads to a disruption in the regulation of insulin in your body. When insulin regulation is disrupted in your body, your body will end up storing more fat, including your organs. Shape states:
But it’s just four nights, so how bad could it be? You might be able to cope just fine. After all, coffee does wonders. But the hormones that control your fat cells don’t feel the same way.
Within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin (the master storage hormone) becomes completely disrupted. In fact, the University of Chicago researchers found that insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30 percent.
Here's why that's bad: When your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. Eventually this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.
Wow, by sleeping less, your body ends up storying 30% more fat in your body. How does that sound?
Sleeping Less Means Your Hungrier
People think that hunger is controlled by our mind’s power but that’s not right. It’s controlled by two hormones, namely leptin and ghrelin.
Here is how the whole system works:
Leptin is a hormone that is produced in your fat cells. The less leptin you produce, the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate hunger while also reducing the amount of calories you burn (your metabolism) and increasing the amount fat you store. In other words, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinoloy and Metabolism found that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin.
If that’s not enough, the scientists discovered exactly how sleep loss creates an internal battle that makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. When you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. This is the stress hormone that is frequently associated with fat gain. Cortisol also activates reward centers in your brain that make you want food. At the same time, the loss of sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin. A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol shut down the areas of your brain that leave you feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time—even if you just ate a big meal.
But it doesn’t end here. Lack of sleep also impairs decision making, meaning that you are more likely to make poor decisions when it comes to diet than if you slept right. Lack of sleep also makes you crave the bad kinds of foods, meaning that you crave those that are high in carbs, especially sweets.
Lack of Sleep Will Ruin Your Exercise
Muscle is what burns your calories. The more of it you have, the more calories you will burn. Part of exercise is growing and toning your muscles. Lack of sleep reduces the growth and toning of your muscles thereby leading to less calories burnt.
You need to get at least 7 hours of sleep. That’s not going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 6am, no, it means being ASLEEP by 11pm and waking up at 6am. So if it takes you 15-30 minutes to fall asleep, you should be in bed by 10:30pm. The American Journal of Epidemiology shows that in just over a decade and a half, women who sleep less than 7 hours can gain over 33 pounds in fat. This means they are sicker both bodily and mentally.
Make sure to get enough sleep and that means between 7 and 8.5 hours a sleep per night. It is ok to fall behind on some work and get your sleep in. This may hurt you in the short run but it will be rewarding in the long run because you will be more focused and energetic at work, thus being more productive in less time.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.