Can't Shed Those Pounds?
A lack of zzzzs can affect your ability to lose weight.
To lose weight seems to be the number one resolution each new
year. However, nearly 90% of these resolutions meet with either little or no
success. Some people even gain weight instead. Most people never know there may
be a very simple reason why: They don't sleep well.
Studies published in TheJournal of the American
Medical Association and The Lancet suggest that sleep loss may
increase hunger and affect the body's metabolism, which may make it more
difficult to maintain or lose weight.
Sleep loss appears to do two things:
- Makes you feel hungry even if you are full. Sleep loss has been shown to
affect the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite. As a
result, individuals who lose sleep may continue to feel hungry despite adequate
- Increases fat storage. Sleep loss may interfere with the body's ability to
metabolize carbohydrates, which leads to high levels of blood sugar. Excess
blood sugar promotes the overproduction of insulin, which can lead to the
storage of body fat and insulin resistance, a critical step into the
development of diabetes.
Why would an overweight person tend to have sleep problems?
There appear to be several reasons why this may occur:
- Many people who are overweight have sleep apnea, a disorder in which
breathing starts and stops during sleep, consequently causing numerous
awakenings. This may occur hundreds of times a night, without your even knowing
it. So you can imagine how sleepy you could feel the next day.
- Some who are overweight have low back pain, making lying comfortably in bed
and getting a good night's sleep difficult.
- People who are depressed or otherwise worried about their weight may have
insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep.
Losing weight can improve sleep. An Australian study of more than 300 obese
people showed they had significant sleep problems that were reduced after
weight loss surgery:
- 14% reported habitual snoring, down from 82%
- 2% had sleep apnea, down from 33%3)
- 4% had abnormal daytime sleepiness, down from 39%
- 2% reported poor sleep quality, down from 39%
It is also important to realize that the quality of sleep (that
is, getting the right amount of "deep sleep") is just as important as
the quantity of sleep. For example, decreased amounts of restorative deep or
slow-wave sleep have been associated with significantly reduced levels of
growth hormone, a protein that helps regulate the body's proportions of fat and
muscle during adulthood.
Sleep Tips to Help You Shape Up
Specialists recommend that people who vow to lose weight should
adjust their sleep habits as well as their eating habits. The following are
useful tips to help shape up.
- Don't go to bed feeling hungry, but don't eat a big meal right before
- Exercise regularly, but no sooner than three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the late afternoon and
- If you have trouble sleeping at night, don't nap during the day.
- Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes
- Create a pleasant sleep environment. Make it as dark and quiet as
- If you can't sleep, don't stay in bed fretting. After 30 minutes, go to
another room and involve yourself in a relaxing activity until you feel
If you have trouble sleeping for more than a few weeks, or if
sleep problems interfere with daily functioning, speak with your doctor.