7 Reasons Why Sleep is Important for Fat Loss
Everyone knows that there is one tried and true way to get in shape and lose weight – eat right and exercise. Any exercise and diet routine that follows this ultimate fitness truth will produce results.
Which one works best will always be up for debate, but ultimately as long as a person does it, they will shed the pounds. It doesn’t matter if they’re rocking 1980’s style aerobics or following the latest trends in CrossFit.
What many people don’t know is that there is one key component to weight loss that is often overlooked, and that is the role a good night’s sleep plays in losing weight.
Sleep Allows Time to Rebuild
Sleep plays a more important role in weight loss than many people realize, which might sound strange considering that sleep is the exact opposite of exercise. The best way to put it is that sleep does not help someone lose weight by itself.
What sleep does is make proper diet and exercise effective by allowing the body to rebuild and adapt to the increased level of activity. According to the CDC, 35% of Americans are chronically sleep deprived, so considering the vital role that sleep plays in dropping excess fat, it’s no wonder why so many people struggle with their weight.
Sleep Reminds our Bodies that Everything is Ok
Remember that despite the fact we are used to living in a comfortable and modern world with all its convinces, the human body is still made for survival in the wild, as a hunter-gatherer.
When we don’t get enough sleep, we are telling our bodies that something is wrong, and our survival as a species is at stake. The primitive corners of our brains will believe that hard times are upon us, and there will be little to forage, and game will be scarce.
It doesn’t matter that in reality, we binged Netflix until two in the morning while munching on unbuttered popcorn. Our hardwired evolutionary physiology thinks there won’t be enough mammoth to eat, so it better store some extra fat to survive the winter.
Sleep Influences Appetite and Cravings
Sleep regulates two important hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin helps regulate our energy level and is the hormone that tells us when we are full. The less sleep we get, the less leptin we produce.
That translates to having to eat more to feel full. Ghrelin is the hormone that triggers our appetite, and not getting enough sleep causes our bodies to produce more which means we are hungrier.
All it takes is getting less than six hours of sleep at night to lower our leptin and amp up our ghrelin levels in a way that will make us want to eat more and stay hungry anyway. Also, these hormones affect how we burn the calories we take in.
Essentially, when they get out of whack like this, it lowers our metabolism.
Sleep Correlates with Good Decisions
It isn’t just our bodies that get affected, but also our minds. Not getting enough sleep lowers the activity in the frontal lobe of the brain. That is the part that helps us in complex decision making along with willpower, reason, and common sense.
If sleep deprivation is severe enough, it can mean the decision-making process of someone is the equivalent of a person who is legally intoxicated. Everyone gets the occasional craving for ice cream or some other desert, but lack of sleep can make those cravings feel overwhelming.
In other words, not getting enough sleep means that when given a choice, it becomes much more likely that the last donut in the breakroom will be eaten.
Lack of Sleep Destroys Muscle
Another major detrimental effect on our bodies from lack of sleep is our muscles. Lack of sleep can cause muscle loss, and make it harder to build muscle which means that less fat is burned.
The reason for this is because the growth hormones that are responsible for muscle repair and growth are reduced when people don’t get enough sleep. Our muscles need our bodies to spend time in what is called slow wave sleep.
Good Sleep Reduces Pain
It isn’t just sleep that we need, but good sleep – though that can be easier said than done. Disorders like sleep apnea will take their toll. Other problems like lower back pain or any joint pain can also make sleeping uncomfortable and challenging.
It could also be your mattress. Those commercials that talk about pressure points and the ways worn out mattresses can negatively impact sleep isn’t just marketing hype.
You can’t be in pain and exercise regularly, so it’s important to make sure you are sleeping both comfortably and soundly.
Lack of Sleep Correlates with Mental Health
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are common causes of insomnia. Sometimes we even shoot ourselves in the foot. How often is the solution to not getting enough sleep is drinking extra coffee?
That extra coffee can make it harder to get good sleep, and so the next morning we go for that extra coffee again because we are tired.
Catching up on sleep is a myth. Only getting four or five hours a night during the work week isn’t offset by sleeping twelve hours on Saturday and Sunday. Try for a minimum of six hours a night. Seven or eight is better, but sometimes that isn’t an option.
Think of it as an investment. We have all been tempted to buy the cheap shoes or bargain electronics. A little bit of money is saved in the short run, but it almost always ends up being more expensive because the cheap version seems to wear out and break down faster.
Sleep is like that. Taking those extra two hours a day to sleep will add far more value than two additional hours of a day spent in a sleep deprived fog. It will also make you slimmer and healthier.