When it comes to losing weight, one question that is frequently asked is ‘can sleep affect weight loss?’ There is a lot of advice that comes up over and over again: Watch what you eat, watch how much you eat (and when and how you prepare your food), get adequate amounts of exercise, establish routines, etc. However, rarely is the relationship between sleep and body weight clearly explained. The truth is, to effectively lose weight, getting the right kind and the right amount of sleep is just as crucial as anything done when the body is awake.
Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?
A number of changes occur when we sleep. First and foremost, when asleep, the body’s metabolism drops off. This makes it more difficult to burn any calories accumulated right before bed, which is why it is best to avoid large meals shortly before sleeping. (A few hours between the evening meal and bedtime are recommended). This dip in metabolism is caused by the secretion of leptin, which is the hormone that lets the body know when it is time to stop eating. In order to allow for sleep, leptin curtails the metabolism, convincing the body to be satisfied with the current intake and output of calories.
When We Sleep – or Don’t
When we don’t sleep long enough, or the sleep we do get is of poor quality, the body does not produce as much leptin as it should. This leads to a higher production of the corresponding hormone, ghrelin, instead. Ghrelin is the hormone that generates hunger. What this means is that a lack of sleep encourages the body to eat more, and some dietary choices, notably caffeine and sugar, stimulate the body and encourage it to sleep less, which perpetuates a cycle of sleep loss and weight gain.
So, can sleep affect weight loss? Yes. It won’t cause weight loss directly, but by facilitating the production of leptin to balance out ghrelin, it certainly plays its part in regulating the body to make weight loss (and healthier living) much easier.
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