Sleep More, Eat Less: Why Lack of Sleep Leads to Weight Gain

By on November 9, 2014

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By Kristen Bentson for Discover and Play

Sleep more, eat less; eat less, weigh less! The way I see it, you’ve got to consistently focus on 4 distinct areas of health to really appreciate an overall sense of well-being. First on my list is (of course) nutrition followed by exercise (yup, it’s hard to get the butt you want, sitting on the one you got), stress management (just breathe, baby), and sleep. While I don’t talk about it a lot, I think sleep’s really important. You might be wondering how sleep is linked to food; well, interestingly, there’s some really hot new research connecting lack of sleep to weight management issues. In fact, the simple act of not getting enough sleep could potentially lead to huge weight gains, make you more prone to overeating, and more likely to eat junk. Eat junk, feel like junk, and end up with too much junk in that trunk!!!

So right about now, you might be asking yourself, “How in the world does not sleeping enough make me gain weight?” Let me break it down for you a little further into the Top 5 Reasons You Eat More When You Sleep Less:

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1. Slowed metabolism: when you sleep less, your resting metabolism slows down. A slower resting metabolism (without a fork slowdown) means weight gain.

2. Awake longer: the more you’re awake, the more opportunities you have to take in more food. More food (over what your body needs) equals more pounds.

3. Hormonal craziness: okay, so there are 2 hormones that will increase your appetite and cause you to want higher calorie foods. These hormones are called ghrelin (the green light to eat signal) and cortisol (a hormone that makes you crave carbs). When you don’t sleep enough, the activity of these hormones greatly increases. While ghrelin and cortisol are increased by a lack of sleep, the activity of leptin (the red light hormone that tells you to stop eating) decreases. Double Whammy.

4. Low energy: feeling lethargic and tired often increases your desire to increase energy. One of the fastest ways we know to get quick energy is to down a donut or pound some pasta.

5. Loss of REM: when you don’t sleep enough, you can lose an important REM cycle.  Loss of that last REM cycle, the cycle where the most calories are burned, could cause you to pack on the pounds.

So, chew on this. 7 ½ hours is the amount of sleep you need. Studies show that people who aren’t getting enough of it tend to consume an extra 300 calories per day. Those extra 300 calories could mean a 30 pound weight gain in one year! Know you need to catch more ZZZ’s? Check out my Top 3 Tips for Better Sleep

Tip 1: Get yourself in a rhythm. Go to bed the same time every night. Wake up the same time every morning (even on the weekends)
Tip 2: Exercise first thing in the morning. An early morning workout is the best way to start your day, and is shown to improve sleep quality at night
Tip 3: Just Breathe! Before bed time, take a few moments to engage in relaxation breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises

Here’s the bottom line: when you take in too many calories or you don’t burn enough calories, you gain weight. If you’re not getting a regular 7½ hours of sleep each night, you may be thwarting your weight management efforts due to decreased resting metabolism, changes in hormones, lack of energy and loss of an important sleep cycle.

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Sleep More, Eat Less: Why Lack of Sleep Leads to Weight Gain