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Why Is Sleep Important for Weight Loss?

By Anna-Sofie Hickson ; Updated July 18, 2017

Sleep is a crucial element for retaining energy and stamina throughout the day. In addition, sleep supports the balance in hormone levels, which significantly affects body weight and body fat. A good night’s sleep allows your body to resolve the physical and mental stresses of the day and provides your body with the vital means to function correctly.

The Link Between Sleep and Weight

People who get an adequate amount of sleep each night, considered to be 7 to 9 hours for adults, generally weigh less. It makes sense that sleep supports weight loss; the amount of sleep you are able to get significantly affects two of the hormones in the human body that influence the appetite. Ghrehlin enhances appetite and can lead to weight gain. Leptin represses appetite and can support weight loss. A lack of sleep disturbs the hormonal balance. The result of insufficient sleep leads to an increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin levels, which may lead to weight gain.

Schedule Your Day

Set a time to go to bed and stick to it. Writing a schedule of your day encourages you to hold yourself accountable. Put the schedule in a visible place so that you can’t make excuses for staying up later. It is also helpful to journal the amount of sleep you get each night, especially in the first few weeks. A written recognition of how you have deviated from the sleep schedule you make is beneficial to changing your behavior. If you fail to meet the appointed bedtime for a few days, keep trying. It gets easier as you continue to aim for the schedule you have set for yourself. Your food intake and the quality of food also benefits from a schedule. You are more likely to eat a healthy meal on a schedule rather than fast food.

Fluids and Sleep

Getting a good night's sleep often depends on what you put into your body, especially before bedtime. Avoid any excessive fluid intake before bed; this causes unnecessary sleep interruption by trips to the bathroom. You should especially avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Caffeine, even in small amounts, can affect your ability to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Alcohol has an initial sedative effect that allows you to fall asleep quickly, but later in the night, it can cause a rapid heartbeat, sweating and nightmares, ultimately causing sleep disturbance.

Food and Sleep

Eating before bedtime is often a temptation. If you need to eat something, limit yourself to a dairy product and a simple carbohydrate. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Carbohydrates promote the use of tryptophan in the brain. A cracker with cheese is an example of a good bedtime snack. Avoid a heavy meal of high fat content at least 2 hours before bed, as the digestion process takes longer. Spicy foods can cause heartburn and gastrointestinal discomfort. If you are a smoker, you should not smoke immediately before bed, because smoking is a stimulant.

Disengage Technology

Watching television before bed is a favorite pastime in our culture. It's a passive activity that doesn't require concentration. However, technology is a stimulant and causes the brain to remain active, resulting in difficulty in falling asleep. Turn off the television and the computer, and read a book or write in a journal before bed. These activities relax the mind and relieve the sporadic and distracting sounds that television produces.

Promote Overall Well-Being

Maintaining a healthy weight requires well-being of the entire body. If all of the necessary components of your body are in sync, you feel better, have more energy and sustain an overall sense of wellness. Adequate sleep is essential for the metabolism and hormones to remain balanced and function properly. Sleep deprivation produces fatigue and stress, and can also lead to other serious health concerns. If you balance your day with sufficient sleep, a healthy diet and moderate exercise, you can retain a healthy weight and feeling of wellness that is beneficial to your overall health.

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