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Can You Sleep Your Way Thin?
Weight loss experts, dietitians, and creators of fad diets talk about what to eat and how often to exercise. However, none of them said anything about another important phase of weight loss – sleeping for at least seven hours at night.
In a research presented at the American Heart Association’s 2011 Scientific Sessions, it was shown that women who got only four hours of sleep at night ate 329 additional calories the next day than they did after they slept nine hours. Men, meanwhile, ate 263 calories more. And this is only the start.
More studies now show how sleep can affect your weight.
Lack of Sleep Can Make You More Likely to Gain Weight
In a seven-year study of more than 7,000 middle-aged people, Finnish researchers found that women who reported sleep problems were more likely to experience a major weight gain of about 11 pounds or more.
Does this mean that sleep can actually make you lose weight? Kind of.
According to Michael Breus, Ph.D., who is a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Center of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta, it’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight. If you are usually sleep-deprived and that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly.
Breus says that the body needs an average of seven-and-a-half hours of good quality sleep per night. If you are getting this already, then it won’t really help you lose more pounds even when you sleep for another half hour longer, but it will help you lose weight easier. Meanwhile, if you are a short sleeper, meaning you sleep for less than seven hours, and then you start sleeping for seven hours a night, you will start losing weight.
Sleep Can Help Your Body Burn More Calories
In a study at the Department of Neuroendocrinology at the University of Lubeck in Germany, researchers had a group of men sleep for 12 hours at night but didn’t allow them to sleep the next night, and then had them eat a sumptous buffet the following morning.
The researchers also measured the men’s energy expenditure, the calories the body burns just by being, and found that when they were sleep deprived, their general energy expenditure was five percent less than it was when they got a good night’s sleep, and their energy expenditure after eating breakfast was 20 percent less.
Sleep Can Help You Lose Fat
Dieting can help you lose different kinds of weight – water, which is temporary and can return once you get off your diet, or fat, which is what you really want to remove.
In a study at the University of Chicago, researchers followed 10 overweight but healthy participants who were placed on a balanced diet, then observed in two 14-day phases, the first in which they got about seven-and-a-half hours of sleep, and another in which they slept five hours and 15 minutes.
While the participants lost an average of six pounds during both periods, they lost about three pounds of fat when they got more sleep. During the short sleep period, meanwhile, they lost only about one pound of fat. The participants also reported less hunger when they got more sleep.
Sleep Can Curb Your Appetite
What is probably the biggest revelation about the connection between sleep and weight loss came from a Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study of more than 1,000 people, when researchers found that those who got only five hours of sleep at night had 15.5 percent lower leptin levels, a hormone that tells the body it doesn’t need to eat, and 14.9 percent higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that tells the body to eat more, compared with those who got eight hours of sleep.
What The Experts Say
According to Susan Zafarlotfi, Ph.D., clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, being sleep deprived and running on low energy can make you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods.
This experience is caused by leptin and ghrelin, which normally work in a kind of “checks and balances” system in order to control feelings of hunger and fullness, explains Breus.
However, Breus says that not getting enough sleep drives leptin levels down, meaning you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise, as seen in the cohort study, so your appetite is stimulated and you want more food. These two hormones can set the stage for overeating, and in turn may lead to weight gain.
So remember this when you have reached your plateau or when you are having a hard time dropping more pounds. Sleep early, for at least seven hours, and this might do the trick.