Catch Some Zzzs to Lose Lbs
Does this sound like you?
You’re trying really hard to lose weight so you make time to hit the gym, despite your jam-packed schedule.
You’re putting in an hour of cardio four or five times a week, no questions asked. You’re watching your portions and avoiding junk food. But the scale stares blankly back at you with the same number week to week. What gives?
Well, you’re possibly missing a piece of the weight loss puzzle: sleep.
Most of us are so busy trying to fit in workouts and eat right that we neglect getting enough sleep. Being chronically sleep-deprived negatively affects many aspects of health, especially weight. If you’re trying to lose weight then it’s crucial to make sleep a top priority. I’ll be talking about this in-depth when I present “Catch Some Zzzs to Lose Lbs” on Thursday September 18th @ 7:00pm but I’ll give you a shorter version right here.
Both the quantity and quality of sleep determine how your body responds to food and exercise by influencing a number of key hormones. The first among these is a hormone called ghrelin. This is the hormone that creates that rumbling in your belly that you recognize as hunger. Not getting enough quality sleep will increase ghrelin which makes you physically hungrier than you would’ve been if you’d gotten enough. Leptin is a hormone that increases satiety. If you’ve got enough leptin circulating in your body, you’ll feel fuller, sooner. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, leptin goes way down when you’re sleep-deprived. The combined increase of ghrelin and decrease of leptin is a double-whammy: you’re hungrier AND you’re less satisfied by what you eat, which makes appetite control a trying matter, to say the least. All because of a lack of sleep.
Lack of sleep worsens insulin and cortisol levels, too. A single night of sleep deprivation can significantly raise insulin, a hormone responsible for transporting the sugar (that is, carbohydrate) you eat to different tissues in your body, including your liver, your muscles and your fat cells. If insulin is elevated for too long because you’re habitually skimping on sleep then insulin preferentially puts sugar into your fat cells – definitely not where you want it to go! You might have heard cortisol referred to as the “stress hormone,” and indeed it is. Not getting enough sleep is a stress to your body and in response to that stress, your body pumps out cortisol. Cortisol frees up stored sugar in your liver and muscle cells, giving you a quick burst of energy to help you through that stress. This isn’t a problem if it happens periodically; but it becomes a problem if the stress never lets up, as is the case if you’re regularly sleep-deprived. Because cortisol floods your bloodstream with sugar, it also indirectly raises insulin and, as we’ve just been over, insulin puts sugar in your fat cells and puts YOU in fat-storing mode. Going back to the example from earlier, how effective is doing cardio if your body is stuck in fat-storing mode? Does it really matter how many calories the machine says you’re burning? (The answer is, “No!”.)
Sleep influences many more hormones that ghrelin, leptin, insulin and cortisol; however, its influence on these key hormones can help or hinder anyone’s efforts at weight loss. Your body responds very differently to what you eat and how you exercise on four hours of sleep than on eight hours of sleep… and not for the better!
Kirsten Gallagher is the developer of S.E.E. Results, an online health coaching program that puts a priority on sleep.