A common health and fitness goal for people is to lose weight, or more specifically to lose fat mass. We know that in order to achieve weight/fat loss we have to exercise a bit more and we have to watch what we eat and maintain a calorie deficit. However very little thought, if any, is given to the role sleep quantity and quality can play in weight loss, and it actually plays a VERY big role. If we are working hard in the gym and trying to eat well in order to lose weight, our good efforts may be getting sabotaged if we are consistently getting less than 7 hours sleep a night.
Firstly, restricted sleep gives us more opportunity to eat. For example if I get 6 hours sleep compared to 8 hours sleep, I now have 2 more hours of the day where I am awake and may consume calories. It’s surprisingly hard to eat while asleep (I know mind blowing information), so when dieting, getting more sleep is a very helpful strategy. With a poor night’s sleep (or chronically poor quality sleep) we will also have less energy, making training and exercising much less appealing. Lower energy levels may also lead us to subconsciously move less throughout the day. This will lead to lower daily energy expenditure and this is not ideal for weight loss.
Sleep can also have a big effect on regulating key hormones involved in appetite control. Restricted sleep can affect the balance between the hunger promoting hormone and the fullness signalling hormone. Unfortunately for weight loss goals, this imbalance can lead to the hunger promoting hormone being elevated. As a result of this the stomach will start to rumble and that sausage and egg McMuffin will look a lot more tempting. Research has also shown that restricted sleep can also alter activity in the appetite control regions of the brain and this can lead to people craving and desiring more high calorie foods throughout the day.
The physiological effects of poor sleep can definitely impact our eating habits throughout the day and our weight loss promoting behaviours. So good quality sleep should also be a priority when chasing weight loss goals. ‘’Move more and eat less’’ is often thrown out as the simplest advice to lose weight but perhaps we should add to that statement, ‘’Move more, eat less and sleep well’’.
- Sleep practices impact weight loss efforts
- Insufficient sleep can lead to:
- More opportunity to consume calories
- Less energy for exercise
- Elevated levels of hunger hormones
- Desiring high calorie foods
- Improving sleep aids weight loss success