Have you ever wondered why despite your best efforts to include a healthy diet and exercise into your life, you have not been able to shed weight? Insufficient nighttime sleep, which means 7 hours or less, can cause gradual but serious damage to your health on several fronts. A stationary weight that refuses to budge, notwithstanding your genuine attempts at maintaining otherwise good health, is a clear giveaway that you are sleeping less.
Case in point is Nitesh, a media person with odd working hours and an erratic eating schedule. The health conscious 35-year-old made sure to stay away from junk food and whenever possible went for a run, his favorite exercise. However, his weight remained the same and only veered towards the higher side on the weighing scale. Disappointed with the weight stalemate, he consulted a dietitian who put forth a series of questions before him. The dietitian was able to figure out that he was not sleeping for more than 4-5 hours at a stretch because he worked in rotational shifts that messed up his daily schedule.
Here are the ways in which inadequate sleep affects our body and reduces our chance to lose weight:
Lowers Metabolism: Due to a lack of sleep, we are unable to metabolize food properly and instead experience a rise in insulin levels. There is a spike in cortisol levels, signaling the body to store fat as conserved energy. Studies say that within as little as four days of inadequate sleep, our body’s ability to process insulin gets disturbed and our metabolism starts slowing down.
Changes in Hormones: When you deprive yourself of sleep, there is increase in the levels of appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin and decrease in the levels of satiety inducing hormone leptin in your body. This makes you hungrier and crave for foods rich in fat and carbohydrates, putting our weight loss efforts up for a toss.
Reduces the Growth Hormone: The Human growth hormone, a protein produced by the pituitary gland, is released into the bloodstream during deep undisturbed sleep. It works to restore and repair the bodily muscles. When you don’t get enough sleep for many days, this hormone gets repressed, impacting your stamina and metabolism.
Prone to snacking at night: You’re far more likely to reach out for that bag of chips or ice cream tub to satisfy your cravings if you’re awake till late in the night. When your intake of calories is high late evening or at night, it gets stored as fat in your body making your battle with weight more challenging. Also late night snack choices are usually unhealthy and thus, detrimental for your weight loss goals.
Less likely to work out: When you do not get enough sleep, your body is not rested adequately. With not much energy and stamina left within you, you are likely to ditch your work out regime. A good night’s sleep is also crucial to help your body recover following exercise. With lack of sleep, your performance during a workout is impacted.
Increases stress and depression: When you have sleep deficit, you start exhibiting tendencies of stress, irritability and mood swings. Studies suggest that people who slept less than five hours per night for a week, reported feeling sad, angry and anxious. Such psychological issues can lead you to make unhealthy food choices. Besides, stress and depression can elevate the cortisol levels resulting in fat to build up in the stomach area.
Can cause diseases: There is a strong co relation between chronic sleep deprivation and the incidence of various diseases and health ailments. A lack of sleep affects your immune system, making you prone to fall prey to cold and other common viral illnesses. A long period of sleep deprivation gives rise to serious problems such as diabetes, cardio vascular disease, obesity and high blood pressure. While sleeping, your body heals itself and releases protective antibodies. Without enough sleep, your risk of contracting chronic problems grows multifold.
Understandably, it can be difficult to get enough shut eye every night as we have to face different challenges on a daily basis. Amidst our domestic responsibilities, professional commitments and social obligations, our sleep schedule goes off track. But in order to have a healthy and fit life and also to keep excess weight off, we have to make our sleep a huge priority.
OneFitplus recommends a few handy ways that can help you get a good night’s sleep:
Have a sleep schedule: Try to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Even on weekends, do not disturb this routine. It’s best not to disrupt our circadian rhythm, that regulates the sleep wake cycle every 24 hours. An unregulated sleep wake cycle makes people prone to diabetes, gastro intestinal upsets, obesity etc. We can reset our circadian rhythm by fixing a regular sleep schedule and religiously abiding by it.
Limit day time nap: We should limit our day time napping to not more than 30 minutes. The longer we nap during the day, the more it affects our chances to sleep on time at night. Also, we should try not to nap late in the day.
Create a comfortable environment: For a sound and restful sleep that rejuvenates our mind and body, the bedroom environment plays a key role. Choose a comfortable mattress and pillows that best cushion your body for restorative sleep. Reduce clutter from your room, install dim night lights, keep a stable but cool temperature and add some kind of relaxing scent to your environment. And above all, switch off all electronics (TV, smart phones tablets) that emit blue light which reduces melatonin- the sleep inducing hormone in our body and keeps us awake.
Exercise every day: Include some form of physical activity during the day, that will not just work your bodily muscles but will tire you out, so that you can fall asleep easily. Studies show that exercise improves both the quality and duration of our sleep. With regular exercise, we also reduce the risk of developing disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
Reduce stress: Too much stress and anxiety can cause insomnia and other sleep disorders. Lack of sleep further exacerbates your stress levels and so, it becomes a vicious cycle that impacts both our physical and mental well-being. You can effectively deal with stress and anxiety through mindfulness and other relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing in addition to taking a hot bath, sipping herbal tea and reducing screen time before hitting the bed.
Avoid heavy meals and caffeine: It’s advisable to neither eat too heavily, nor go hungry before hitting the bed. In both cases, we might feel uncomfortable and spoil our chances of sleeping well. Try to eat a healthy and balanced diet, a few hours before hitting the bed. A warm glass of milk, that contains dopamine inducing vitamin B 12 and zinc, is recommended at bed time to help you sleep faster. We must avoid having caffeine, alcohol or nicotine before bed time. They stimulate our system and may cause sleep disruption.
With age, the amount of sleep you need keeps changing. But as a general rule, adults need between 7 to 9 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep. At OneFitplus, we place tremendous value to a good sleep cycle in our customized modules for customers. We feel that your sleep plays a significant role in your physical, emotional and mental well-being. Remember, less sleep and weight loss do not go together. A sleep backlog will always be a deterrent in your weight loss goals. Hence, we recommend maintaining sleep hygiene, along with a healthy diet and exercise regime, to shed the extra weight and stay fit.