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Why Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain

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Is there really a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain? Are we talking about getting up during the middle of the night to eat and thereby losing out on sleep? If not, so what is the connection between the two?

Actually, lack of sleep can cause many health-related issues of which weight gain is just one. And there are two main reasons for it: sleep deprivation and bad food choices because of the alteration of appetite due to a shift in hormones.

Sleep deprivation

When sleep deprived, the body’s metabolism system doesn’t work right, so it is not burning calories as efficiently as it could. Research has shown the issue seems to come from a change in glucose tolerance or the body’s ability to turn food into glucose and get it to the cells where it can be used for energy. Being sleep deprived, glucose tolerance can diminish as much as 40%.  If calories are not being processed, they are stored as fat, leading to weight gain.

Bad food choices

The other part is the bad food choices we make when sleep deprived. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which controls our appetite and a decrease in leptin, which tells us when we are full.

Sleepily we grab a cup of coffee or two … or three, along with a donut for some quick energy. That sugar rush caused by the sugar in the donut and in your coffee, if you added some, soon wears off and before long you are back looking for more food.

The issue is you are not looking for carrots or even apple slices with peanut butter – something that would be good for you – no, you are back for another donut or something that will give you the sugar rush again, has a lot of calories, and absolutely no nutritional value. The long-term result of this eating behavior is weight gain, even to the point of obesity. Typically, those that are sleep-deprived eat about 300 calories per day more than when they are rested. In a week, that is a pound of weight gain just from not getting enough sleep. Fifty-two weeks, fifty-two pounds!

And it wouldn’t be as bad … but still not good, if you hit the gym sometime during the day to burn off as many of those calories as you could, but being sleep deprived, you are too tired to exercise, so the weight just keep piling on.

A typical adult needs at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night to avoid sleep deprivation and the change in hormones. Between the combination of taking in more calories and the body’s ability to efficiently burn them altered (coupled with a lack of exercise due to tiredness) the end result is weight gain – and in some cases, a lot of it.

6 Simple Lifestyle Tweaks to Help You Lose Weight

Sometimes the simplest changes in lifestyle can make a big difference. Here are six easy lifestyle tweaks that make a big difference individually, but have synergistic effects when paired together.

Keep a food journal

Many times being overweight is a case of not realizing how much (or what) a person eats in a day. Writing down everything puts it in perspective. According to a recent study, people who kept a food journal lost twice as much weight as those who did not – on average 13 pounds in 6 months.

Exercise during TV commercials

Instead of sitting on your butt (and probably eating unhealthy food) do some exercising while the advertisements are running. Running up and down stairs, riding an exercise bike or treadmill, doing jumping jacks, skipping rope, etc. all burn calories. In fact, exercising during the commercials that run on a typical 2-hour night of watching TV burns an extra 270 calories per day, not to mention the calories you are avoiding by not eating during this time.

Eat healthy food

Not only does eating junk or unhealthy food pack on the calories, but it is also high in saturated and trans fat – both which are bad for your health and lead to some serious health issues. Instead, opt for more fresh vegetables, whole grain and lean meats. Not only will it reduce the number of calories consumed, but reduce the bad fats.

As far as lunches, refrain from eating processed fast food and opt for a healthy bag lunch that you prepared at home.

Get more exercise

This so easy to do without adding hardly any more time to your day. For example, instead of parking close to the office, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk in the rest of the way. If you take public transportation, get off a stop or two before your normal stop and walk to the office. Once inside the building, take the stairs (at least part way up) instead of the elevator. During lunch break, take a walk, returning with enough time left to eat your healthy bag lunch.

Wear a fitness tracker

Counting the number of steps taken during the day raises your exercise awareness. When you have that information at hand, you’ll find yourself comparing how many steps you have taken to your daily goal and put in the extra effort to reach your goal. In a recent study, people who walked only 2,500 steps more per day than the control group, burnt off the equivalent of 10 pounds over a the one-year study.

Get enough sleep

In another study, participants were asked to sleep 10 hours a night for two nights, followed by five nights of less sleep and four nights of recovery. The results? After 11 days, the study group had gained almost 3 pounds each compared to the well-rested control group.

All of these lifestyle tweaks are easy to implement. Once they are established habits, and you start to see weight loss results, you’ll wonder why you had not started doing them sooner.

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