Sleep is kind of a big deal to all of your systems. Chief among them the neurological, endocrine, immune, digestive and musculoskeletal systems. It’s easy to adopt the “sleep when you die” martyr attitude. It’s a thing to be a slave to the grind right now, but at what cost?Click To Tweet
The process of losing weight is already putting your body in a state of deprivation. You’re demanding more from all systems by adding more strenuous activity and then again by underfeeding your body calories. This is the time to give back to your body in all other ways you can.
YOUR BODY IS YOUR FRIEND
BECAUSE I LIKE METAPHORS…
It’s kind of like asking your friend for favors. First they help you move, then maybe the next time you call you also need to a dog sitter. Then your dog chewed up their couch. Then, instead of profusely apologizing and buying them dinner, you ask them yet another favor. How many of your calls is that friend going to take after that?
Here’s the deal with your body, though, it can’t just ghost you. Instead, it goes into sabotage mode!
WEIGHT LOSS SABOTAGE
THE “HUNGER” HORMONES
There are several hormones that can effect your metabolism and ability to lose or gain weight. Which ones are the hunger hormones? Leptin and ghrelin.
- LEPTIN is essentially responsible for signaling to your body that it is full.
- GHRELIN is the hormone that activates the feeling of being hungry.
ARE YOU REALLY HUNGRY?
Recent studies show very clear patterns of decreased leptin and increased ghrelin in individuals that get an average of 5 hours a sleep a night.
What does that mean? Your body is telling you it’s not full after an adequate amount of food OR hungry more often that it needs food. All signs point to increased appetite and a tough time maintaining a caloric deficit.
THE STRESS HORMONES
Now lets talk about stress. Decreased sleep can drastically increase your levels of stress. When we think about stress, we think about getting frazzled because we have too much to get done, right? The stress I’m talking about is the demand you are putting on your body.
As mentioned before, you are already adding extra activity and decreasing your body’s fuel, limiting sleep adding even more. The primary stress hormones that are proven to be affected by decreased sleep are:
- CORTISOL prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation and inhibits the glucose insulin resistance.
HOW YOUR BODY REACTS TO STRESS
Stress, or in this case sleep deprivation, causes a significant increase in cortisol within 24 hours the next day. Increased cortisol levels can lead to acne, depression, unfavorable cholesterol and blood pressure readings, and the topic in question: weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, it has been shown that limited sleep and increased cortisol levels can contribute to increased abdominal fat. Yea, that’s right, we can’t control where we lose weight, but we have a little control over where we gain it!
MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT & RECOVERY
Sleep has a pretty devastating effect on protein synthesis, a process which directly effects muscle development and recovery. When it comes to losing weight, body composition is key. In other words, you want to decrease fat tissue and increase muscle tissue.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT MUSCLE?
Muscle will increase your daily caloric expenditure as well as your ability to move with more balance, stability and strength throughout your day. Inadequate sleep has been shown to not only prevent you from building new muscle, but take away some of the muscle you already put on.
As I mentioned above, sleep has a big hormonal impact. Testosterone and growth hormones are vital to your ability to be able to lose weight, put muscle on, and retain it. Yes, ladies, even you need a little testosterone.
If the previous reasons didn’t spark your interest, consider this: testosterone is the hormone responsible for you libido. Consider getting a good night’s sleep next time you think about how “in the mood” you are.
IMMUNE SYSTEM SUPPORT
Before you head to Dr. Google to figure out why you’re sick all the time, consider how much sleep you get. Your body’s circadian rhythm plays a vital roll in preventing illness, immunological memory, and illness recovery.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
(you know I had to say it, eventually)
You’re immune system snaps into action while you rest:
- It increases production of virus fighting cytokines and white blood cells
- Multiplies antibodies to illness you’ve already endured to prevent future infections and speed up recovery
- Fights an infection or virus that you already carry to get you feeling better
If you binge watch Stranger Things all night instead, you are voluntarily minimizing all of these amazing immunological processes. There are even studies that show your flu shot loses efficacy after 7 nights of prolonged sleep loss.
While it’s true, weight loss during the flu is likely, is that really the most efficient way to do it and keep it off? NO.
SLEEP IT OFF
LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
Before you stress out after one sleepless night, remember these can be a result of an unhealthy circadian rhythm. In other words, I’m referencing your specific sleep-wake cycle here, as opposed to one night of poor sleep. You can generally bounce back from 1-3 nights of bad sleep, once you hit 7 days, it gets a bit dicey.
If you are struggling with weight loss, stress, persistent illness, maybe focusing on getting 7-10 hours of quality sleep nightly should be your starting point. You may consider yourself to be a “Night Owl”, but all that means is your circadian rhythm is in need of repair.
THROW OUT THE ALARM CLOCK
Our bodies were designed to rise and set with the sun. While it’s not realistic to got to bed at 6:00 in the winter months, it is wise to start winding down around then. Turn of those electronics, light some candles and take the opportunity to read! The goal should be to wake up without an alarm clock. Let your body know when it’s fully rested.How much is enough sleep? The goal should be to wake up without an alarm clock. Let your body know when it's fully rested. Click To Tweet
I challenge you to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night and report back to me with any differences you may notice. Even those results outside of weight loss, I want to know!