In a normal sleep period, a person experiences four to six sleep cycles. During the NREM portion of sleep, it is said that the metabolism drops around 15%.
If you are like many modern adults, you may be struggling with twin sources of stress: poor or insufficient sleep and weight gain. This isn’t just something that happens to people as they get older, the two factors are connected. When your sleep durations are less, your body actually rearranges how you process and crave calories in a way that causes weight gain.
The body doesn’t necessarily do this on purpose. Sleep is used as a regulator and getting enough sleep keeps your body systems, including your metabolism, in balance. When you have sleep loss, sleep poorly, or get inadequate sleep then your body’s craving for carbs and desire to snack goes up while your metabolic ability to manage those carbs goes down. So is lack of sleep making you gain weight? According to science, it certainly can’t be helping.
Let’s dive into the effects of poor sleep on the potential for weight gain or resistance to weight loss.
Increase in Appetite
When you are short on your hours of sleep, your appetite increases. This makes a natural amount of sense, as we get energy from two sources: calories or sleep. When sleep is low, you crave calories to fuel further activity. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t process those calories efficiently so what you eat when you’re tired is more likely to become fat than energy or muscle.
Watch out for an increased appetite when you don’t sleep well or don’t get enough hours of sleep, and not just when you feel sleepy. Increased leptin levels and ghrelin levels can boost your desire to eat even during the day when you feel pretty energized.
Decrease in Feeling of Fullness
Another problem with lack of sleep may mean that you have a harder time knowing when you’re full. It’s that late-night snacking principle, you never notice that you’re approaching the bottom of a bag of potato chips. Lack of sleep can make you feel unsatisfied after lunch and seek dinner or extra snacks throughout the afternoon. This can really stack up in calories if you never quite feel like you’re done eating and have come to rely on that sense.
If you’re struggling to feel a sense of fullness, you may benefit from measuring portions instead. Stop yourself after one or two servings with the argument, “I don’t need more right now, I’ll save the rest for later.”
Deregulation of Metabolism
A regular sleep schedule also helps to regulate your metabolism, determining how efficiently you process the calories you consume. People with a naturally high metabolism tend to be slender and often tall. Those with low metabolism also often have low energy and a higher BMI because their bodies don’t as easily translate food into personal energy.
When you don’t get enough sleep, the part of your sleep cycle and your sleep durations that helps to regulate your metabolism and even boost it does not occur. This means that over time, your metabolism may de-regulate so that it does not process foods well during this time. The less you sleep (or more poorly) then the more of your time will be spent in poor metabolic regulation mode.
Increased Craving for Carbs and Calories
In fact, when you don’t get enough sleep you can also develop a craving for carbohydrates and extra calories. This is why the connection between sleep and people who sleep very little has a higher preference for snack foods and fast food or other poor food choices, especially when pushing themselves around the clock. Several studies have found that low sleep can noticeably affect your food preferences, guiding you toward less healthy foods – and foods that make you “feel full” in spite of the lowered feelings of fullness caused by a deregulated metabolism or hormone levels. Watch out for these cravings in times when you must short yourself on sleep.
Snacking to Stay Awake
Have you ever noticed that all-nighters and salty carb snacks go hand in hand? Potato chips and French fries are a favorite of the late-night shift and students studying into the early hours of the morning. That spark of salt and the crunch of carbs is exactly what your brain needs to keep rolling through sleep deprivation, but you’re not going to process the carbs and oil the way you expect to.
Your body is demanding emergency burn-it-now energy. If you were staying up late to run a marathon, that might be appropriate. But most people work late at a desk or in a vehicle driver’s seat – not burning that many calories per hour. Your brain doesn’t understand and just keeps demanding that you snack to stay awake. If this happens a lot, it could cause major weight gain.
Sleeping After Snacking
Lastly, watch out for snacking right before bed – or waking up briefly for a midnight snack. When you go to sleep, your metabolism slows down and you don’t properly digest the last things you ate. This is why good nutrition suggests having your evening meal two or three hours before bed. A small evening snack like fruit or a half-sandwich can ease any before-bed cravings or feelings of hunger without causing nighttime weight gain, but try not to fall asleep after filling your belly with carbs or even a healthy balanced meal. Try a bit of physical activity after you eat and prior to sleep.
The same goes for midnight snacks if you wake up hungry. Start with a cup of water. If your appetite persists, eat a piece of fruit or bread to keep your hunger at bay instead of letting yourself mindlessly munch half a bag of chips before shuffling back to bed.
The Kind of Sleep that Promotes a Healthy Weight
Managing your weight, especially in adulthood, takes exercise, good nutrition, and good sleep. All the healthy living in the world won’t give you the best results unless your metabolism is well-balanced from getting enough sleep, and good deep sleep provides your body with the necessary neurotransmitter exchanges to stay healthy and balanced throughout, plus help the benefits of beauty. If your bed is the cause of poor sleep, it may be time for a new mattress. We often keep mattresses far longer than they are supposed to be kept because it’s hard to realize when a mattress’s lifespan is over. But if your mattress isn’t giving you good sleep, it’s time to go. Explore our selection of new mattresses to suit your sleep needs and promote the healthy metabolism that your body needs to get fit and stay fit. Contact us to find the mattress you need for good sleep and successful weight loss.