When we’re looking to shift some unwanted pounds we automatically think we need to pound the treadmill for hours and nibble on lettuce. However, if I told you that the most effective way to lose weight was by sleeping, you wouldn’t believe me, right? In fact if we don’t sleep the recommended 7-8 hours a night, it can lead to gradual weight gain overtime.
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The reason for this lies in the nightly hormones which occur during sleep; ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone which tells our bodies when we’re hungry and leptin tells us when we’re full. If you don’t sleep enough, a hormonal imbalance occurs. Ghrelin increases and leptin decreases, which essentially means that we feel hungrier and are less likely to feel satisfied – leading to overeating.
When we’re sleep deprived we’re likely to consume on average an extra 300 calories per day. If there is a surplus amount of 3,500 calories that aren’t burnt, this will lead to a weight gain of 1 lb. If we consume 300 additional calories per day, we could see ourselves putting on 1 lb every 11 days and a whopping 2 stone a year!
When we’re tired we instinctively reach for caffeine laden drinks and fatty foods as an energy boost to see us through the day. Comfort food is often craved when tired as we feel more vulnerable when we’re not fully alert. It’s a vicious cycle – you leave work tired and hungry and don’t have the energy to cook so you may find yourself eating a takeaway or ready meal.
Our metabolism slows down when we’re tired in order to conserve energy. Our body’s natural ability to then burn calories throughout the day diminishes and is more likely to absorb calories than get rid of them. When we are tired and lose our ability to function, it makes situations more stressful. When we are stressed, the hormone cortisol is increased and this has been known to increase hunger and appetite.
Although a healthy eating and exercise plan will enable you to lose weight, sleep also plays a pivotal factor in this. To keep the pounds off, we need to make sure we’re getting enough shut eye at night. It’s easy to cut sleep to fulfill all the demands of our work and social life but “me time” and sleep time is important and vital to our health.
To give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep, create an environment which encourages sleep. Relax and unwind with a hot bath, drink or a book and turn off all electrical devices. LCD lighting from electrical devices can actually affect our body’s circadian rhythm and disturbing our natural sleep pattern.
If you’re tossing and turning in the night, it may be time for a new mattress. Mattresses should be changed every seven years. Mattresses that aren’t giving you the right support can disturb your sleep. Likewise if you’re sharing a bed, consider whether it’s big enough for the two of you to move in the night.
Creating a bedtime routine is just as important as setting time aside to go to the gym and to cook a healthy meal. However sleeping is a much easier way of enabling your body to lose weight!