By Tom Hutchison
We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is something we regularly achieve. There is an abundance of pre-bedtime distractions and sometimes it’s just impossible not to watch that next episode, or read those next few chapters. But we soon regret it when the alarm abruptly wakes us, leaving us groggy and tired for the day ahead. However, if you were armed with the knowledge that more sleep didn’t just make you feel better, but could also lead to more weight loss, those night-time diversions would be far easier to avoid.
Sleep Cuts Cravings
There are a number of good reasons to support the fact that a regular good night’s sleep is good for fat loss - the first of which is primarily concerned with food consumption. It has been suggested that sleeping for at least eight hours a night can significantly help to cut cravings. A study from Stanford University found that out of 1,000 volunteers, those that reported sleeping eight hours a night had a lower percentage of fat than those who slept less. Within this study they also found that those who slept more had higher levels of leptin (the hormone that tells our brain that we are full), and lower levels of ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates appetite).
This could help to explain why the longer sleepers had fewer cravings and how they were able to refrain from overeating, which could ultimately explain their lower levels of fat. Another study, this time from Columbia University, found that those who slept less ate about 300 calories more than those who were well-rested. With this in mind, you could suggest that a good night’s sleep helps to supress hunger.
More Sleep, Less Stress
Stress is a regular occurrence in the modern world and a lack of sleep is itself one of the many causes of stress. The body responds to stressors by releasing certain hormones which cause us to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. However, the majority of modern day stressors do not require the ‘fight or flight’ response and, instead of having to physically react, most people will sit and worry, alleviating their stress by eating. This is due to the fact that cortisol - one of the hormones released in response to stress - increases appetite.
The body is not aware that we haven’t had to ‘fight or flee’ so it thinks you still need to replenish energy stores, hence the increase in appetite. In addition, higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol also result in an increase in abdominal fat, so if increasing sleep can help to prevent unnecessary stress, then that must surely be a good thing, especially for our waistlines.
Muscles Need Sleep
As previously discussed, muscles are very important for weight loss; they help your metabolism, they can lead to fat loss and, among other things, they help you look good. A lot of muscle growth and recovery in response to exercise occurs in our sleep, so good sleep is essential when it comes to muscle-building. It is believed that a lack of sleep (six hours or less) hinders the body’s ability to repair and grow muscle in response to exercise, and can also lead to a decrease in muscle mass. It is here that cortisol is once again relevant, as more prolonged and higher levels (resulting from a lack of sleep) can cause this decrease in muscle mass.
Furthermore, six hours of sleep or less decreases the testosterone and growth hormone, which could explain why a lack of sleep hampers the body’s ability to repair and build muscle. A study published in the ‘Annuls of Internal Medicine’ found that poor sleeping patterns reduced the ability of obese subjects to lose fat mass and also caused them to lose muscle mass.
A Few More Reasons to Sleep
A sufficient amount of sleep also seems to be helpful with the suppression of genes that are linked to obesity. A study from the University of Washington found that sleeping less than seven hours a night was linked to people being more receptive to the effects of genetic influences on weight. These findings suggest that getting more sleep may make it easier to prevent fat gain. Another factor that sleep influences is the body’s response to insulin.
A study published in the ‘Annuls of Internal Medicine’ found that a lack of sleep could lead to an increase in insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is bad for a number of reasons; it can lead to diabetes and can also lead to obesity. So once again, this is another very good reason for getting a good night’s sleep. Perhaps the most obvious reason for getting a night’s sleep is the fact that more sleep gives us more energy. Numerous studies have also shown that more sleep results in better and increased physical performance. The better you can perform, the harder you can push yourself when it comes to exercise, which in turn will speed up the fat burning process.
Now that you have finished discovering the many reasons why adequate sleep helps us to lose excess fat, you’ll hopefully be better motivated to hit the hay and avoid those bedtime distractions. But whilst a lack of sleep is bad, you must be careful, as too much sleep may also be detrimental to your health. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night and you will greatly aid and improve your ability to expel that unwanted fat.