Use Sleep to Your Weight Loss Advantage
Sleep and weight go hand in hand, and that’s both bad and good news for your health. While an unhealthy weight can contribute to sleep difficulties such as sleep apnea, lack of sleep can also contribute to unhealthy weight. And it just might be your lifestyle that’s getting in the way of your sleep. Many people know that excess weight, especially in the abdomen and neck area, can hinder respiratory function during sleep. This makes you gasp for air, and your brain wakes you up to take a breath. This is called sleep apnea.
What might be less well-known is that research has found that people who do not sleep adequately (between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep for most people) have decreased levels of leptin, an appetite-suppressant hormone. When a body has lower levels of this hormone, it becomes easy to confuse fatigue with hunger. This leads to eating, when what is really needed is sleep. To address this, consider these important factors:
- Any weight-loss plan should include adequate sleep.
- If you have untreated sleep difficulties such as sleep apnea, see a care provider to identify and treat your issue. Otherwise, your weight-loss efforts might be undercut with lack of sleep.
- Be sure to keep exercise in your schedule even when you are fatigued or not sleeping well. Exercise deepens sleep, both of which contribute to weight loss.
- Exercise at least four hours before bedtime, if possible, to avoid being overstimulated at bedtime.
- Give yourself at least 30 minutes before bed to detach from stimulating activity, including surfing the internet, paying bills or watching the latest intense drama on TV.
In our busy lives, it is easy to forget that sleep is as important as being productive. Good sleep happens successfully when we get out of its way, giving ourselves a chance to detach and unwind. When we do this, our minds and bodies get the signal that it is time to let sleep take over. Only then can drifting off be an effortless process.
By Theresa C. Lengerich, PsyD, clinical psychologist at TriHealth Weight Management and Bethesda Sleep Center
Last Updated: March 27, 2017