When it comes to losing weight, chances are, you think about your diet and your workout program. These are the two single biggest factors that most people are looking at when trying to figure out how to see the most results possible.
BUT, there are many additional factors that you must take into account if you are to boast optimal results.
One of these factors is a big one: sleep. Sleep and weight loss go hand in hand and when you aren’t sleeping enough, weight loss is going to be an uphill battle.
So what is sleeping for weight loss so important? What will it help you out with?
Let’s look at the many reasons why there is a sleep and weight loss connection, and then give you a few ways to improve your sleep regimen so that you can maximize your results.
Sleep And Metabolic Rate
If you are asking yourself why is sleep important for weight loss, it’s important that you first take into account the impact that sleep can have on your resting metabolic rate.
Your metabolism is essentially going to dictate how fast you burn through calories every day. If you have a fast metabolism, you’ll burn through calories at a lightening speed.
If you have a slow metabolism, you’ll burn through them at a snails pace – something that, as you can imagine, does you no favors in the game of weight loss.
When you aren’t sleeping enough, those with a fast metabolism see their rate get slower and slower. Those with a naturally slow metabolism… well, you can imagine their fate.
Lack of sleep will cause your body to slow down. You’re tired and it wants to conserve energy. Thus, things don’t happen as quickly as they should.
The slower your metabolic rate is, the harder future fat loss progress is going to be.
Sleep And Insulin Resistance
Another factor that comes into play between the sleep and weight loss connection is insulin resistance. This can have a serious influence on the results you see.
What is insulin resistance?
Whenever you eat carbohydrate rich foods, your body releases insulin from the pancreas. This is designed to help your body escort the glucose the carbohydrates break down into to the muscle tissue (if there is room in muscle glycogen storage) or to the fat stores, if there isn’t.
Obviously some of the glucose would be used for energy right away, but usually, not all of it will be utilized instantly.
The reason the body does this is because in order to stay healthy (and alive), you do need to maintain a certain level of glucose in the bloodstream. If that level gets too high or too low, serious health complications can occur.
When the body becomes insulin resistant, as it may if you aren’t sleeping enough, your cells won’t respond to the insulin being released. As a result, the sugar sits in your blood stream longer, potentially becoming more dangerous.
It also makes it a lot easier for that sugar to end up stored as body fat rather than being stored in the muscles.
Those who are insulin resistant usually have, or are on their way to having, diabetes. They also gain weight as a result of it.
You can also become insulin resistant by simply eating too much sugar or processed foods, but sleep also plays another big role1.
Sleep And Hunger
The next way that sleep will influence you is your hunger level. Ever wake up after a night of not much sleep and notice that you wanted to eat virtually everything in sight?
Welcome to lack of sleep. You will be hungry, and to make matters worse, your body is more likely to crave carbohydrates because it knows that that’s what will give it the energy that it’s missing.
But in this case, you may not really be short in food energy, you’re short in sleep. So eating all the carbs in the world isn’t really going to make up for that.
Since carbohydrates are typically the one thing that you are trying to cut back on when losing weight, the last thing you want to be dealing with is serious carbohydrate cravings.
Sleep And Will Power
To add to the point above, another factor that you’ll want to content with is sleep and will power. When you’re low on sleep, chances are, your motivation AND self control are at an all time low.
Not only do you not want to go to the gym for your regular session because you’re so tired, but you’re also unlikely to want to say no to that cookie you’re craving as well.
You may feel like just tossing in the towel entirely on your program because you’re just tired.
Your body has a limited capacity when it comes to will power and self control and this capacity tends to take a very downward spiral when you haven’t slept enough.
A good night’s sleep will keep you on top of your game and making better progress going forward.
Sleep And Energy
If you’re feeling tired due to lack of sleep, ask yourself this: how likely is it that you will hit the gym for your workout session?
If you said, very unlikely, you would be right. Most people will not be interested in working hard in the gym when they’ve slept only five to six hours per night.
But maybe you’re very motivated and you force yourself there. That’s great! But how hard do you think you’ll be able to work while you’re there?
The truth is, not very hard at all. You simply don’t have the energy to push yourself like you do when you’re well rested.
So this means not only will you not see as great of physical performance progress (because you are so tired!) but you’re also not as likely to get the metabolic boost you should from that workout session since it’s lower in intensity.
When it comes to making sure that your fat loss workout delivers you optimal results, the number one thing that you need to focus on is intensity. This is the number one thing that tends to dip when you haven’t slept well.
Sleep And Recovery
Finally, the last reason why weight loss and sleeping go hand in hand is because sleep is the time when your body recovers, both from the day as well as from your workout sessions.
If you aren’t sleeping enough at night, it becomes very trying to get full recovery in and you might just find that you fall short. You won’t feel as strong waking up the next day and may not even be able to hit the gym for your planned workout session.
The body doesn’t get stronger in the gym, it gets stronger when it’s outside the gym resting, particularly when you are sleeping.
So hopefully now you can see the answer to the question, ‘Why is sleep so important for weight loss?’ There are many ways that sleeping will help you see better results on your program, so it’s a wise move to invest extra energy to getting to bed and getting that good night’s sleep.
How can you ensure you sleep as well as you should? Here are a few tips and techniques.
- Be sure that you turn down the temperature in the bedroom. If your room is too warm, it can be nearly impossible to fall asleep at night. Consider investing in air conditioning in the summer if needed.
- Block out any light that may be present. Light is going to signal to the brain that it’s daylight, so it can interact with the melatonin production that’s taking place and makes you feel drowsy.
- Use a white noise machine to cancel out any unwanted noises. Fans work great or you can purchase a white noise machine.
- Try meditation before bed. Meditation has been proven2 to help you sleep better at night and may actually cause your body to require less sleep overall.
- Take a hot bath to raise your core body temperature and then let it fall. The change in temperature will make you feel sleepy.
- Write in a stress journal so you aren’t ruminating over stressors in your life. Nothing will steal away a good night’s sleep like a high amount of stress.
- Use muscle relaxation exercises to help relax the muscles and lull you to sleep. These can help release unwanted tension and make it easier to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine after noon as the half life of caffeine is six hours and you don’t want any in your system before bed.
If you take the time to make sleep a priority in your life, it will pay off, both in terms of your overall weight loss results, as well as the general health that you maintain.
- Buxton, Orfeu M., et al. “Sleep restriction for one week reduces insulin sensitivity in healthy men.” Diabetes (2010).
- Nagendra, Ravindra P., Nirmala Maruthai, and Bindu M. Kutty. “Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep.” Frontiers in Neurology 3 (2012): 54