Most of us know that getting enough sleep is important for our general health & wellbeing, but how important is sleep really when it comes to keeping a healthy weight?
Recent studies stress the importance of getting the recommended “7-8 hours” by showing that too little sleep is associated with an increased risk of weight gain and a higher body mass index (BMI). Moreover, less sleep also tends to equal more cravings for sweets and high carb foods, such as chocolate, cakes, and bread1. To properly explain this, we must look at two hormones, namely leptin and gherkin, both of which are involved in energy regulation and hunger signals. Leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, increases the feeling of fullness by instructing the brain to feel satisfied and tell us to stop eating. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is oppositely known as the hunger hormone, counteracting the effects of leptin and increases the sensation of hunger that drives us to eat and snack more. Interestingly, during times when we don’t get enough sleep, sleep deprivation triggers ghrelin levels to rise and disrupts our body’s natural balance. This shift in hormones increases our feelings of hunger and wanting to snack – and particularly on addictive sweets and fast foods, which in turn increases the likelihood of overeating and gaining weight2,3. Research shows that after just a single night of sleep deprivation causes notable changes in these hormones3. So making sleep a priority is not just a dated phenomenon.
Instead, sleep is essential when working towards a weight loss goal and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When you think about it – how much easier is it to loose motivation to eat right and let alone exercise when we’re jetlagged or have had a big week without much sleep? Skip relying on coffee and aim for adequate sleep instead… This will help you maintain a healthy & balanced appetite while also minimising food cravings & temptation to overeat at the same time. Listen to your body – it’s smarter than you.
Natural suggestions to help improve sleep
- Skip the caffeine, especially late in the day since it has a stimulating effect, which can worsen sleeplessness and insomnia. Have a cup of herbal tea, such as chamomile or mint, instead which are also great for your digestion.
- Avoid eating too much and too late. Have your dinner 4 hours before you go to bed. That way your body is not busy digesting food when it is supposed to wind down and do its “night job” of cleaning up and detoxing.
- Watch out for sugar! Foods high in sugar usually causes a quick rush of energy and can lead to unbalanced blood sugar levels, which can disrupt the quality of sleep.
- Avoid TV and phones while you’re in bed as some studies suggest this keeps our brains too wired for longer.
- Help your body relax by taking a hot bath before bed. Add some epsom salts, which have an amazing and relaxing effect on the muscles.
- Minimise or avoid alcohol. Though it help make us fall asleep it can compromise the quality of sleep you’re getting.
- Beebe, D. W. et al. (2013). Dietary Intake Following Experimentally Restricted Sleep in Adolescents. Sleep. Jun 1; 36(6): 827–834.
- Taheri, S. et al. (2004) Short Sleep Duration Is Associated With Reduced Leptin Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased BMI. PLOS Medicine Dec;1 (3).
- Schmid, S. M. et al. (2008) A Single Night of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels and Feelings Of Hunger in Normal-Weight Healthy Men. Journal of Sleep Research 17, 331-334.