Could Better Sleep mean more Weight Loss?
Sleep levels affect the body’s weight and general health, and there are links between a lack of sleep and greater appetite, heart disease and diabetes. Getting more sleep can help general health and weight loss.
Sleep has been linked to a variety of health benefits, and overtiredness has been shown to affect the brain, appetite, and the way the body responds to unhealthy food. Getting adequate sleep – at least seven hours a night – has been linked with greater willpower and lower appetite levels, but oversleeping has been shown to negatively affect both the body and brain. To benefit from weight loss effects of more sleep, it’s helpful to turn off electronic devices long before going to sleep, sticking to a sleep routine, and exercising more to ensure that the body is adequately tired before bed.
Health Benefits of Sleep
Sleep is important to the body for a number of reasons. The body requires a period of rest each day in order to function properly. Lack of sleep can affect both the brain and body’s performance, and can influence the development of serious conditions including heart disease and diabetes.
Studies have found that losing an hour or two of sleep regularly can affect the body in a variety of ways – it can change the insulin tolerance levels within the bloodstream, lower the immune system’s natural efficiency making it easier to catch colds or illnesses, and, crucially, it can increase the chances of gaining weight and developing obesity.
For many dieters or those worried about their general health, one simple way to improve health and weight loss may be to sleep more. Increasing sleep levels has been seen to reverse some of the negative effects of overtiredness to some degree.
It’s important to note that these effects don’t continue to increase exponentially the more sleep the body gets – oversleeping can begin to cause additional harm to the body. Studies have found that oversleeping can be just as damaging to the brain’s natural function as not getting enough sleep. A Korean study found that getting too much sleep led to a lack of physical coordination and an increase in trips and falls that was similar to levels of clumsiness showed by those who didn’t get enough sleep.
Sleep Disorders and Obesity
There’s a lot of scientific evidence linking sleep and obesity. This exists for a variety of reasons: for example, there’s a link between regular napping and diabetes, which scientists have concluded is because obesity leads to increased tiredness. There’s also evidence to suggest that those who suffer from obesity get less quality sleep as a result – this is because a larger body mass makes it more difficult to sleep comfortably for long periods of time, and can lead to sleep apnea for those whose breathing is impaired due to their size.
As there’s a natural link between obesity and tiredness, it’s logical that those who are overweight will also suffer from sleeping challenges. At the same time, though, a sedentary lifestyle and oversleeping can make it more difficult to be active enough to overcome obesity, and can even lead to greater weight gain. It’s important to note that not all dieters will necessarily benefit from longer periods of sleep – what matters is the quality of sleep, and the healthy lifestyle that compliments and supports the user as they get adequate rest.
Sleep and Appetite
A lack of healthy sleep has been linked with changes in the body’s diet and lifestyle which may lead to greater weight gain. Not getting enough sleep can lead to changes in the body’s appetite which can sabotage diet goals.
When the body is tired, its natural response is to request additional food. As tiredness sets in, the body struggles to function at peak efficiency, and therefore in order to provide more energy to continue functioning, it requires additional fuel sources – this often leads to an increase in appetite.
Thus, if the body doesn’t get enough sleep for an extended period, it’s often the case that the user will see an increase in appetite and snacking as a result, leading to greater weight gain.
Sleep and Weight Loss Hormones
When the body is asleep, its hormone levels change. Ghrelin, a hormone which controls how often the brain chooses to eat, is typically released when the brain is tired. Conversely, Leptin, which is a hormone that tells the brain that the body is full and doesn’t need more food, is released when the brain is asleep, as no food is needed while the body is at rest.
This means that sleep has a strong impact on the body’s food cravings – the more sleep the body gets, the less calories it feels that it needs to consume, up to a point.
There’s also a strong link between sleep and willpower: it’s easier for the brain to resist temptation from fattening foods, or to keep exercising when it becomes uncomfortable, if the brain has had adequate rest.
One very important study from 2010 into health and sleep looked at the effects of differing sleep levels on the development of cardiovascular disease. The study examined the results of a survey of over 30,000 participants in an attempt to spot a correlation between a lack of sleep and heart disease. It found that the optimum sleep level for healthy heart activity was seven hours per night – participants who slept either less or more than this were at an increased risk of developing heart disease. It’s important to note that because these results came from a survey, there may be some bias to the answers participants gave – they might not have given accurate answers, either because they didn’t know their actual sleep levels, or because they knew the healthy level they should be aiming for. It’s also possible that sleep levels and heart disease were connected for other reasons – for example, an overweight person who eats unhealthily may have trouble sleeping as a result, rather than as the cause of, their health challenges.
One study in 2012 looked at the effects of acute sleep deprivation on appetite and the ability to resist unhealthy food. The study analyzed the effects of sleep deprivation on twelve participants, studying them in two separate circumstances – the first followed a night of complete sleep deprivation, and the second followed a good night’s sleep. The participants’ brains were measured for various signals as they were shown images of various foods. It was found that the brain lit up with more interest in unhealthy foods when it had been subjected to sleep deprivation – the hungrier the participants were, the more their brains wanted unhealthy food. This led the study to conclude that there may be a psychological link between a lack of sleep and a greater desire to consume junk food.
Getting Adequate Sleep
While it’s commonly accepted that getting more sleep is good for the body’s general health, and while there’s evidence to suggest that sleep can affect appetite, it’s often difficult to get the best possible sleep.
There is a lot of advice available from health bodies on the most effective way to increase sleep. It’s generally important to stick to a regular schedule rather than varying the amount of sleep that the body gets, or going to bed at different times each night. A set sleep pattern makes it easier for the brain to switch off, and can also have added benefits to appetite and food consumption. A study in 2015 found that rapidly changing sleep patterns was more influential to participants’ appetites than the amount of sleep the body gets – when faced with a wildly different sleep pattern or a night of particularly bad sleep, the body’s natural response is to consume more calories to provide immediate energy relief in the expectation that sleep schedules will return to normal afterwards.
One of the main reasons why sleep is disrupted in modern life is the overabundance of artificial lights, particularly mobile phone, tablet, computer, and television lights. Electronic screens give off a blue-tinted light which the body responds to by increasing alertness, making it more difficult to go to sleep. Scientists recommend turning off all electronic devices at least an hour before sleep in order to increase the body’s quality of sleep.
In addition to this, there is one very effective way to aid sleep which also has benefits for weight loss: increasing exercise. Performing more exercise throughout the day tires out the body, making it easier to sleep at night. It also has the added bonus of burning excess calories and helping the body to maintain a greater level of general health, which directly aids weight loss.
Reduced levels of sleep have been linked to greater levels of obesity, because a tired brain is more likely to desire unhealthy comfort foods and will have a more difficult time overcoming an increased appetite. Studies have shown that around seven hours of sleep is optimal to avoid the development of heart disease and in order to prevent weight gain by snacking. To get better sleep, turn off electronic screens long before going to bed, stick to a regular sleep routine, and perform more exercise throughout the day to help the body get the best possible weight loss boost.
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