Have you been trying to lose weight, really watching your diet, getting more exercise and still not seeing results? Or maybe you are suddenly gaining weight and you’re not sure why?
Check your sleep!
About 35% of United States adults are getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night, which is considered “short sleep.” And sleep may be the missing piece of the puzzle as to why many people struggle with fat loss.
Lack of sleep affects the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells the body that it’s time to eat. Leptin is the hormone that tells the body when it is full. When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, the body produces more ghrelin and less leptin. This is supported by multiple studies showing that people who had short sleep also consumed an extra 300-400 calories during the day, on average.
Additionally, sleep and physical activity have a close relationship. The more you sleep, the more you feel able to do physical activity; and the more physical activity you do, the better you sleep. A lack of sleep can cause a person to be tired during the day, making it very hard to get motivated to do a workout. And a person with a lack of sleep will likely move less during the day because of fatigue, which makes being in a calorie deficit difficult, which makes weight loss impossible.
But, Jess…I have kids. How am I supposed to get a good night’s sleep when my kids wake up during the night?
While I don’t have the magic formula for this, the Mayo Clinic has a few tips for getting sleep with a baby.
- Don’t try to be a gracious host. If people come over, ask them to watch the baby while you take a nap.
- Don’t bed share. Always return the baby to their bed before falling asleep.
- Split duties if possible with your partner. Work out a schedule that allows you each to rest and care for the baby.
- Unless you suspect your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, it’s ok to encourage self-soothing. See if they can get back to sleep on their own.
And a final tip for everyone, regardless of parental status: practice healthy sleep habits.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine like a warm shower, some gentle stretches, meditation, or reading; but try to stay away from all devices that emit blue light, which can reduce melatonin and make sleeping more difficult.
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
- Limit caffeine.
- Make your room cool, dark, and quiet; earplugs and blackout curtains can help tremendously.
- Use your bed only for sleeping and sex. This will strengthen the association in your brain with going to bed and going to sleep. If you like to read before sleeping, try reading on the couch and moving to the bed when you’re tired.
- Reduce stress. A weighted blanket, meditation, or even writing down your worries before bed to get them out of your head can help with managing stress.
Sleep is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining a healthy body weight. If you’re not seeing the results that you want when it comes to your weight management, check your sleep patterns.