Sleep and Weight Loss: A Close Connection

It's safe to say that we're living in a day and age where a lack of sleep is a very common problem. But did you know that sleep and weight loss are very closely connected? In fact, Arianna Huffington, who wrote The Sleep Revolution, says that "cutting back on sleep is a fantastic way to gain weight."

Whether the issue is that you're exposed to too many screens, work late hours at the office, or lie awake with anxiety and worries, consistent sleep loss is often a huge contributor to gaining weight. Unfortunately, getting more sleep is often low on our list of priorities when we're trying to lose weight. So if you've been struggling to get enough rest and suspect that it's negatively affecting your weight, here's some more information on this common problem and how you can get back on a healthier track.

Hormone Imbalances

Getting less than seven and a half hours of sleep not only slows down your metabolism, but it raises the levels of the hormones cortisol and ghrelin in your body, increasing your cravings for food, says Dr. Michael J. Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and board-certified sleep specialist. If you're not sleeping enough, you're also likely losing out on the deepest REM sleep, which is when your body burns the most calories at night.

To avoid these imbalances, try getting ready for bed 30 minutes before you should ideally fall asleep. To relax, try turning down the lights, turning off or silencing electronic devices, and playing soft instrumental music.

Comfort Food

In an effort to feel better and more energized after a lack of sleep, we often reach for excess sugar and comfort foods when we're not actually hungry. Eating foods that are higher in carbs and fats releases serotonin into the body and makes you temporarily feel better, but unfortunately, it's a trap for gaining extra pounds.

Create a redirection plan for when you're tired and likely to eat high-calorie foods. For example, if you have a habit of picking up a sugary latte on your way into the office, choose a healthier substitute and make it your new normal. Most coffee shops sell lightly sweetened almond or coconut milk, and zero-calorie natural sweeteners if you can't bear to order an unsweetened drink.

If late-night snacking is your issue, make sure you have a low-calorie option. For instance, try preparing a pitcher of hot or iced herbal tea in advance, and have it ready to drink. Then relax in your bedroom with candles and soft music to get your mind off mindless eating.

Lack of Motivation

When you're sleep-deprived, it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise because you're already feeling tired before you even get to the gym or fitness class. Not getting enough rest dramatically reduces your motivation to get the daily physical exercise you need to keep your weight at a healthy range.

Alcohol Before Bed

Try to avoid drinking alcohol during the last few hours before you go to sleep. While alcohol can help you relax and go to sleep faster, it actually disrupts your sleep once it wears off, and can disrupt a REM cycle of sleep. It can also prevent your body from burning calories and getting the most quality rest.

Sleep and weight loss are intimately connected. Use these tips to determine where you need to make changes in order to improve the quality of your sleep. Afterward, you'll likely find that it's easier to keep your weight at an ideal level.

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