Did you know the amount of sleep you have per night can directly impact your ability to maintain or lose weight? People are always surprised when we dig into their medical history about sleep patterns to help understand issues with weight gain. Researchers have shown that sleep quality directly impacts your appetite and thereby your weight. There are two main hormones involved:
1. Leptin – During sleep, leptin levels increase. This is a chemical that tells your brain (from the hypolthalamus to the thyroid gland) when you are full, have enough energy, and are ready to expend energy . When you are sleep deprived, you end up with too little leptin, which ultimately tells your body that you don’t have enough energy for your needs and that you are hungry. The chronic lack of sleep can result in the constant feeling of hunger and the general slow down of your metabolism.
2. Ghrelin – This hormone works opposite of leptin. It tells your brain when you need to eat, when you should stop burning and when you should store energy (in the form of fat of course). During sleep, levels of ghrelin should decrease because sleep requires less energy than being awake. People who don’t get enough sleep end up with too much ghrelin so the body thinks it needs more calories, and it stops burning calories because it thinks there is a shortage!
Beyond the two main hormones, lack of sleep increases stress hormones and insulin resistance which adds to more visceral/abdominal fat – where we want it the least.
WHAT TO DO? Work on SLEEP HYGIENE with the following ideas:
1. Adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Make it happen.
2. Limit caffeine or alcohol near your bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant of course. Alcohol changes your ability to get to the deep phase of sleep.
3. Add in exercise which will help with your sleep quality. Some people have trouble with exercise just before bed so you may want to avoid exercise within 2 hours before bed.
4. Discuss with your health care provider if you think you may have sleep apnea, which is erratic, disruptive breathing. Treatment for this can be life-changing.
5. Wind down and work on new habits. Turn off the TV, put down the device, dim the lights. I usually say: “Put yourself to sleep like a baby.”
6. Reset your circadian rhythm with bright lights in the AM. If you wake before sunrise, you may want to consider a light therapy device like the Philips goLite.
I also came across a good article on sleep with several nice videos: http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/29/health/upwave-weight-sleeping/
Here’s a new motto for you: SNOOZE TO LOSE!