Obesity and excessive weight have become a worldwide problem. Weight gain is generally associated with numerous conditions, health issues, and even early mortality.
It seems that now, more than ever, the quarantine lifestyle has made people gain weight even against their will. Lack of physical activity, lack of sleep, stress, and many other factors all contribute to weight gain, especially in these uncertain times.
COVID-19 has caused many people to change their sleeping patterns, resulting in increased cases of sleep deprivation and insomnia.
Naturally, with sleep deprivation comes an impaired immune system, fatigue, stress, depression, and of course, weight gain.
But, rumor has it that by fixing our sleep pattern and routine, we might be able to lose all the excess weight.
Allegedly, people can lose weight just by sleeping, and that very concept is incredible. So, to see if it’s a thing, in the following paragraphs we’ll explore sleep and its effect on weight. So, let’s get started!
How Does Sleep Affect Weight?
Getting proper amounts of sleep are known to lower your stress levels.
On the other hand, sleep deprivation, as well as excessive sleep can have a contrary effect. But, let’s assume we’re all able to get those 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night; then what happens? Well, during those hours, your body will lower your stress levels as it recuperates and recharges through deep sleep.
Moreover, lower stress levels and proper hours of sleep will lower your craving for unhealthy food once you wake up. Your appetite will decrease and you will feel energized even without too much food.
One particular study, conducted in Portland, USA, by Kaiser Permanente showed that people were able to lose up to 10lbs just by getting enough sleep to lower their stress levels.
Around 472 people who struggled with their weight took part in this study. They were asked to start exercising and reducing their calorie intake, as well as keeping a diary regarding their stress levels.
Alongside all of that, they spent between 6 to 8 hours of sleep and had to attend 22 counseling sessions. Participants who had lower stress levels and got enough sleep lost up to 10 lbs over the course of 6 months.
It is believed that lack of sleep affects hormone levels significantly.
This, in turn, triggers hunger and slows down the whole metabolism. Disrupted hormone levels are proven to be directly connected to weight gain and inability to lose weight or lower the BMI (body mass index).
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation leads to metabolic and endocrine alterations, which result in increased evening concentrations of cortisol and ghrelin, decreased levels of leptin, and a general increase in hunger and appetite.
This shows there is a direct relation between sleep, hormones, and weight. But, to understand this relationship better, we need to understand the previously mentioned hormones as well;
- Cortisol – a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Sleep deprivation increases cortisol release in the body, which results in increased stress levels and appetite. Proper sleep and stress regulation can decrease the cortisol levels and prevent its function in weight gain.
- Ghrelin – a hunger hormone released mainly by the stomach. Ghrelin is known to stimulate appetite, increase food intake, and promote fat storage. Sleep deprivation and high-stress levels promote the release of ghrelin, which contributes to weight gain. Proper sleep and lower stress levels reduce the release of ghrelin, which then allows us to lose weight.
- Leptin – a hormone crucial for appetite and weight control. This hormone is made and released in the small intestine and helps inhibit hunger and appetite. It also diminishes fat storage, lowers food intake, and plays a crucial role in energy expenditure, glucose metabolism, and fat metabolism. Sleep deprivation and high-stress levels decrease the secretion of leptin, which results in weight gain and increased fat storage.
Sleep deprivation, sleep disorders, or even excessive sleep can lead to alteration in each of these hormones and their releases in the body. It is proven that adults and children who lack sleep have increased food intake, decreased physical activity, and an alarming prevalence of obesity.
However, not only can sleep deprivation and sleep disturbances result in obesity, but also type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, pubertal development and growth issues, reproductive issues, obstructive sleep apnea, etc.
Sleep does not only regulate hormone levels in the body, but it also regulates appetite and hunger through those hormones. Here’s how;
- Peptide influence – Peptide is the only peripherally produced and centrally acting hormone that influences the desire of the food. Peptide and insulin produce signals that help us stop eating. Sleep deprivation affects our peptide levels, so peptide and insulin cannot influence our desire for food. That is why we get hungrier, and when we start eating, it is hard to stop.
- Ghrelin to leptin ratio – Sleep deprivation is known to cause an increase in the ratio of ghrelin to leptin. This results in enhanced appetite, or to be more specific, enhanced cravings for carbohydrates. This leads to increased calorie intake, increased hunger, disrupted energy balance, and eventually weight gain and obesity.
- The orexin system – Also known as hypocretin, orexin is a neuropeptide that regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite. It is an extremely important mediator of sleep and appetite; lack of sleep increases the activity of orexin, which usually results in binge eating. Studies have shown that binge eaters generally have sleep issues and show changes in leptin and orexin sensitivity. This is especially proven to be true in animals like rats, where sleep deprivation over activates the orexin system.
So, Does Sleep Help You Lose Weight?
Yes, proper sleep surely contributes to weight loss. Getting enough quality sleep helps regulate hormones that are essential for hunger and appetite regulation, as well as fat storage.
Without sleep and these hormones (their normal levels), the body loses all control when it comes to cravings, appetite, and eating.
Often people feel the need to eat all the time, mostly because they’re sleep-deprived and stressed out. This condition can further lead to depression and insomnia, which can prolong the unhealthy eating habits, resulting in not only obesity but even worse health effects.
Proper sleep and lower stress levels, on the other hand, regulate the hormone levels, appetite, and hunger, promoting weight loss even during sleep.
It is essential we mention that not only is it enough to sleep properly to lose weight in sleep, but also to eat properly. Satiety and hunger hormones cannot be only regulated through sleep; things don’t work that way.
Let’s take ghrelin for example; this hormone stimulates appetite and makes us hungry.
And, let’s say we eat a hamburger to decrease our hunger. What we did by eating the hamburger is not decrease hunger and the effect of ghrelin, but the complete opposite.
Ghrelin doesn’t react to greasy, junk food, but only makes you hungrier, especially if the ghrelin levels increase beyond normal (which is usually the case when it comes to sleep deprivation and stress).
That is why it is essential to fix nutritional habits alongside sleep patterns if you want to lose weight in sleep.
Other Ways Sleep Encourages Weight Loss
It is essential to mention that weight loss doesn’t only come with proper sleep and hormone regulation. The environment in which you sleep can also help you shed pounds in your sleep.
A study, conducted by the Journal of Pineal Research, tackled the idea of sleeping in the dark and weight loss. What the study proved is amazing.
Sleeping in the dark is responsible for the body’s secretion of a healthy level of hormones that convert food and drink into energy.
Moreover, there is proof in the study that such hormones, like melatonin, can even help fight obesity and diabetes.
Melatonin, however, is only produced when there are no ambient lights coming from screens, other rooms, or street light. Excessive exposure to light decreases melatonin levels and suppresses hormone activity.
It also disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm and metabolism. Eventually, disrupted hormonal activity prevents weight loss and the conversion of food.
This is why it is important to stay away from blue light before bedtime. You will sleep better and healthier, and lose weight in the process. The hormonal levels and activity will do all the work for you, but there needs to be a proper setup for that to happen.
So, before going to bed, leave your phone, turn off the TV, shut the curtains and enjoy a good night’s sleep in the dark.
How To Regulate Hormones And Appetite Yourself?
If you’re on a weight loss journey, you can actively participate in hormone and appetite regulation, alongside getting proper sleep and eating healthy. Here’s how you can do it;
Blood Sugar Management
To control appetite, you need to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar levels result in inconsistent energy levels and real hunger cues. Insulin is the main regulator of your blood sugar levels stability; the more insulin is released into your body, the hungrier you will feel due to instability of blood sugar levels.
So, foods that contain sugar or refined carbs are more likely to spike your blood glucose and insulin levels, making your body release more insulin. And there you have it, the vicious cycle of weight gain and obesity.
Blood sugar and insulin help these junk foods get stored in our fat cells, resulting in excessive weight and other health conditions.
So, how do you regulate your blood sugar levels? Simply stay away from sugar, carbohydrates, or any other easily digestible food!
Protein And Fiber
So far we’ve learned that simple sugars, carbohydrates, and junk food, in general, are our worst enemies, especially when we’re trying to lose weight. So, what should we eat instead? Well, we need to consume food that is slow absorbing.
This means that foods which is slow-digestible help us regulate blood sugar levels, hunger-regulating hormones, and fat storage.
They are more likely to convert into energy instead of fat and are more likely to keep us overall healthy.
So, we should be taking in more food that is high in protein and fiber. Such food includes beans, lentils, lean meat, fruit, quinoa, vegetables, eggs, whole grain bread, yogurt, etc.
Sleep, Physical Activity, And Stress Management
And finally, it is important to lean towards healthful behaviors. This means that by getting adequate sleep (up to 8 hours for adults), exercising, and managing stress you’re more likely to succeed in weight loss and appetite/hormone regulation then without these healthful behaviors.
All of these healthful behaviors show that we are in control of how we live, and we are in control of our behavior.
It is our choice to start exercising, to ignore and avoid stressful situations (or learn how to deal with them) and finally it is our choice to improve our sleep routine. Without these, every single of the aforementioned explanations and recommendations won’t bear fruit.
So, How Do I Get Enough Sleep To Lose Weight?
Here are some tips that will help you fall asleep and shed pounds while visiting the land of Nod;
These hectic times are surely testing and challenging. It is hard to stay healthy and stress-free with all the things happening around us. But, we need to be the priorities in our own lives, and there needs to be a special emphasis when it comes to our health.
Sleep deprivation and obesity are huge issues in the modern-day, so we truly hope that our insight has helped you understand the relation between sleep and weight loss/gain. For more information, always make sure to consult your doctor and check with them before applying any of the recommendations yourself.