There are a few reasons why sleep can make weight loss more difficult. The good news is, there are some things we can do to stop the cycle of weight gain— and improve sleep habits.
How Sleep Stops Weight Loss Progress:
Why? When we’re tired, we tend to eat convenience foods, fast foods, and processed foods to avoid having to cook. Most of these foods are high fat, high salt, and high calorie. Same goes for what almost everyone drinks to stay awake. Black coffee is fine, but day after day of frappes and lattes further bumps up fat and calorie intake. Unfortunately, this is not a now and then thing for most of us. For many of us whose schedules are slammed, it’s a pattern. It feels like the only way to get through the week. And we’re not doing our health any favors.
Low impulse-control, combined with low energy level, means we’re more likely to make poor food choices when we sleep less including late night snacking, junk food, and eating larger portions than our bodies need. This makes weight loss extremely difficult.
Comfort food cravings happen for many reasons. Sometimes it’s stress. Sometimes it’s anxiety or depression. Insufficient sleep is another reason that your body is tricked into eating sugary, fatty foods to self-soothe and get a quick burst of energy.
Sleep deprivation also leads to spikes in ghrelin (hunger hormone), and drops in leptin (fullness hormone). That’s a one-two punch for the effectiveness of our weight loss efforts. Plus your cortisol shoots up to help you conserve energy (while our metabolic processes slow down). This means we’re even less likely to lose fat when we’re not sleeping well, even if our diet and exercise is on track.
How to Improve Our Sleep:
While it’s frustrating how much poor sleep habits can slow down our weight loss, there are simple things we can do to break–and reverse–the cycle.
We suggest the following to our clients:
1. Unplug from technology, screens and tablets about an hour before bed. This helps your brain relax, which prepares your body to sleep easier.
2. Don’t use your bedroom for entertainment or work (both overstimulate your brain before sleep)
3. Have a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation (reading, meditation, or prayer) instead of activity, stress, or “figuring things out”. Keep a sense of routine throughout the day, too. It tends to keep anxiety down, which makes regular sleep easier
4. Avoid sugary or fatty foods–and alcohol–right before bed. Also, don’t drink too much caffeine. It can stay in your system for up to 6 hours after consumption.
5. Turning lights off allows your mind to calm, and releases melatonin, which helps you sleep.
So, if you have healthy weight loss goals, treat yourself to a good night’s sleep as often as possible. Your mind, your body, and your to-do list will thank you!