Sleep: The Importance of Sleep for Fat Loss
By Nikki Benson
Why is sleep so important?
A number of people have losing weight as one of their New Year Resolution and may not be seeing the results they hoped. If this is you, then give this a read.
Sleep may not seem a likely factor to effect weight-loss / FAT-loss, but it can make a significant difference. Lack of sleep is linked to weight-gain, increased stress, and increased hunger.
Sleep helps regulate important hormones controlling your appetite and stress: cortisol, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. Understanding how each of these plays a role in your weight-loss / FAT -loss goals, can help you reach your goals faster.
Under stress, cortisol provides the body with glucose (energy) by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can help an individual fight or flee a stressor. But our stressors are work, relationship, and life related than surviving. Elevated cortisol for a long term period consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels through insulin resistance, which results in weight gain.
The role of cortisol “directly influences appetite and cravings by binding to the hypothalamus receptors in the brain. Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors known to stimulate appetite.” (Epel E, Lapidus R, McEwen B, Brownell K. Stress may add bite to appetite in women: A laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001;26(1):37-49.) This is why we crave the high sugar/processed foods when we are stressed.
Insulin also plays a role when quality sleep is limited. Insulin's job is to help the body use glucose for energy. Lack of quality sleep will decrease the hormone leptin, increasing insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, cells fail to use the hormone efficiently, resulting in high blood sugar. This links back to the first paragraph.
The hormone leptin is a 16-kDa protein. It is secreted by adipocytes and dominantly has a major role in body weight regulation by maintaining a balance between food intake and expenditure of energy. Leptin help suppresses your appetite. But, if leptin decreases, insulin increases, and ensue the hanger begins causing an increase in food intake. Increase in food intake = weight gain.
Ghrelin is another hormone that increases appetite, aka the “hunger hormone. Ghrelin levels determine how quickly hunger comes back after we eat. Ghrelin levels increase dramatically before you eat (this is you feeling hungry, grrrrrr), then decrease for about three hours after the meal. And, so the cycle repeats. When we lack quality sleep, gherlin levels increase making us feel hungry, so we can provide energy to our bodies, when we actually just need some zzz’s.
Rob Allen Fitness created a great visual for this (thank you!):
Basically, through lack of sleep our hormones become imbalanced and our body’s response is to keep us alive/surviving. In “normal” circumstances, if you were sleep deprived, it’s because you were trying to survive in the wild. But, we are no longer in the wild. We live in a world that is fast pace, has the “not enough time in the day” mentally, and has easy access to processed sugary foods. Majority of us are sleep deprived and with readily available sugary food, this combination is partly why we are where we are today - obese.
The Take Away:
If you feel like you are not making progress with your weight-loss / FAT-loss goal, try going to bed 1 hour earlier. Increasing your quality of sleep could help you reduce your body weight without much change to what you are currently doing. Consistently getting in quality sleep over the next full year could lead to a total loss of 10-14 pounds, some research suggests.
Now, good quality sleep paired with consistent quality nutrition and a great training program can only accelerate your results!
Start tonight! Get some ZZZ’s!