The Sleep-Weight Gain Connection You Need To Know About
Here's how a good snooze can bring you closer to your healthy weight.
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March 19, 2022 — 10:31 AM
Sure, Valentine's Day and Halloween are fun, but World Sleep Day (March 18) is basically our holiday of choice over here at mbg. We're celebrating with a week full of tips to help you achieve the restorative rest you've been dreaming of. Brew a cup of tea and cozy up, because Sleep Week is officially here.
Discussions around finding your body’s healthy weight will typically focus on relationships with food and exercise. While what and how much a person eats, as well as their workout routine, does contribute to meeting this type of goal, there’s another key factor being overlooked here: how consistent, good sleep can promote a healthy weight, too.
How does good sleep promote a healthy weight?
You might not even realize it, but there’s a direct correlation between how well you slept last night and your appetite today, and the research to back up this claim is abundant. For example, according to a randomized critical trial recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, when 80 adults with habitual sleep of fewer than 6.5 hours per night extended their bedtime to 8.5 hours of sleep per night, their energy levels improved and therefore their bodies required less food to keep them energized throughout the day.
Likewise, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity monitoring the sleep habits and weight of 125 adults over the course of a year found that the more quality sleep you clock in every night, the healthier your weight and body fat percentage will be overall.
It all comes down to your circadian rhythm and how a poor sleep cycle can directly affect your hunger hormones. According to sleep psychologist and advisor to Pluto Pillow, Samina Ahmed Jauregui, PsyD your circadian rhythm not only determines your sleep-wake cycle, but also regulates other biological functions, such as your body temperature, energy levels, and mealtimes.
“One of the many functions of sleep includes the regulations of hormones including [those] associated with hunger, appetite suppression, and food choices,” Jauregui tells mbg. Namely, leptin, which tells the body its full, and ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Not getting enough quality shut-eye throws these hunger hormones out of whack.
“[When we aren’t sleeping well or enough], we end up with less leptin and more ghrelin,” says sleep expert Michael J. Breus, Ph.D. and it’s an unfortunate combination for anyone looking to reach their body’s healthiest weight. This is because suboptimal sleep quality can either upregulate appetite or increase it, potentially diminishing a person’s willpower, leading them to eat more, Breus tells mbg. Poor sleep quality will also negatively impact a person’s energy levels in such a way that, according to Breus, they’ll be less likely to engage in physical activity, leading to unwanted weight gain.
Getting enough quality sleep will have an opposite effect; you’ll have more energy and a healthy appetite, with clearer hunger cues that will allow you to eat more intuitively. Clocking in quality shut-eye will also play a role in the types of foods you crave throughout the day, as a lack of sleep translates to a lack of energy. The better rested you feel, the less inclined you are to seek out meals and snacks high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
5 tips to help you get good sleep.
1. Be mindful of your beverage consumption.
Breus tells mbg it’s imperative that caffeine drinkers take their last sips by 2 p.m. In addition, Breus warns those who enjoy a nightcap should limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks and finish their last glass three hours before bed. This will ensure you’re able to fall asleep easily and stay asleep throughout the night.
2. Prioritize stress management.
Among the most common sleep disruptors, like loud noises and late-night snacks loaded with sugar, stress lands at the top of the list. To reduce tossing and turning, Jauregui recommends addressing any stress you might be experiencing during the day, as opposed to trying to manage it all at night.
“Taking small breaks, enjoying your favorite snack, parking further away to increase your physical activity, or practicing relaxation exercises,” are all small ways Jauregui says you can manage stress during the day that can have a major impact on your sleep quality at night.
Major Allison Brager, Ph.D., a neuroscientist involved in the U.S. Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness System specializing in sleep tells mbg that in order to get yourself ready for bed, you have to press pause on activities that will likely keep you awake. This includes putting away engaging work 90 minutes before bed to avoid stress responses from the body.
Your overall quality of sleep is a reflection of your sleep hygiene, so make your bedroom a sleep oasis in order to improve your slumber. Think limiting your screen time (or banning devices from your bedroom altogether), taking a sleep supplement, setting your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, and treating yourself to luxurious bedding.*
5. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time, every day.
Creating and sticking to a schedule is critical when regulating your circadian rhythm which, in turn, will regulate your appetite. Once you’ve figured out how many hours of sleep your body needs every night to function properly each day, and therefore your ideal bed and wake times, stick to them.