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Plastic Surgery Blog

A Lack of Sleep Can Sabotage Your Weight Goals


Previously we've discussed how sleep is vital to healing, but did you know that sleep is also crucial to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight? You might not think sleep is important, but it affects more than just your energy levels or your ability to concentrate. It's vital for the functioning of all your body's systems. If you are spending your nights bingeing Netflix until the wee hours, you may be sabotaging your ability to meet your weight loss goals.

In 2015 the Endocrine Society presented the results of a sleep study, revealing that a loss of as little as 30 minutes sleep per day on weekdays can affect body weight and metabolism in the long term:

"While previous studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with obesity and diabetes, we found that as little as 30 minutes a day sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance at follow up...This reinforces earlier observations that sleep loss is additive and can have metabolic consequences."

Why does a lack of sleep lead to weight gain? For a number of reasons:

  • Fluctuating hormones - Sleep affects how much of the stress hormone cortisol your body produces. Cortisol affects appetite, with more cortisol increasing appetite. The hormone ghrelin also increases when people are tired. Ghrelin signals satiety, so if you're stressed out and tired, you are more likely to eat and eat without feeling full or satisfied.
  • Impaired digestion - Your body can't digest sugars as well when it doesn't get enough sleep either. Fat cells are 30 percent less able to process insulin, according to one study.
  • Junk food cravings - When the body is under stress, it will attempt to produce more serotonin to calm down. One of the ways it can do this is through digesting high-fat and high-carb foods. That's why you crave them when you're feeling tired or depressed. Your brain is literally trying to fix itself with food.
  • Lowered metabolism - The body is programmed to slow itself down when it senses it's in danger. This is to conserve resources so that it can keep going even when times are tough. Bad sleep habits aren't the same as living through a famine, but your body may think they are and slow itself down to compensate, resulting in a bigger waistline even if you're eating less or exercising more.

Most people skip sleep during weekdays because they are too busy with work or school, thinking they will make up for it by sleeping in or napping on weekends. Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior leads to a habit of sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation leads to weight gain in the long term. One study found that sleep-deprived people ate an average of 300 calories more per day. Over time those 300 calories build up to pounds and more pounds.

We all know how hard it is to lose weight, we just don't realize how important sleep is to meeting that goal. It's arguably the most important step you can take for any health regimen, but especially so for weight loss, and who doesn't want to lose weight or keep it off? If you've been waiting to schedule a mommy makeover or a tummy tuck after until you've lost the weight, you need to add more sleep to your daily routine. Don't keep sabotaging yourself. Make a commitment to getting more sleep and give your body what it needs to best function.

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