Does sleeping make you slim?
I must admit I love my sleep and think there is nothing better than getting a good night’s snooze. When I don’t get my full 8 hours, I feel exhausted and moody the next day. I always perceived needing lots of sleep as a negative, but if recent research is to be believed the fact that I like my forty winks could positively impact on my eating habits and weight.
The news that a poor night’s sleep may play havoc with your waistline could cause the night owls amongst us to re-think their sleeping habits. According to research carried out by the Northwestern University, people who go to bed late eat an extra 248 calories per day compared to those who go earlier.
A number of facts tend to make this research even more believable. The longer you are awake, the more time you have to eat. How often have you been tempted to open a bag of popcorn or reach for the take away menu when you’re having a late night in front of the television? After a short nights rest, how many of you stop off for a cappuccino in Starbucks to get that pep in your step before work? All the little snacks we eat to either keep us awake, or wake us up due to lack of sleep add up!
We don’t need to sleep for 20 hours a day – due to the reduced rate at which we burn calories when we are sleeping, we would be lucky to burn the calories in a celery stick. There is a middle ground that can be reached – a minimum of 8 hours per night is recommended. If you are an insomniac who can happily survive on 5 or 6 hours sleep, it would do no harm to be a little more vigilant about what you are eating. For instance, if your dinner is at 6 o’ clock and you stay up until 1 am, try having a smaller dinner and then a small snack later on.
The link between weight gain and sleep isn’t just related to an increased urge to eat when you’re awake longer; it’s also about the sort of energetic state your body is in. If you aren’t sleeping very much and your body is exhausted, you will feel sluggish and lethargic and as a result the rate you burn calories could slow down. I had great intentions to go for a run last night, but I couldn’t manage much more than a short amble around the park. What was to blame – well, I was a social butterfly at the weekend and got very little sleep. Exercising less invariably means that you must eat less and if you don’t, you will gain weight.
Stress can have a lot to do with encouraging us to eat more. Comfort eating is a common way of dealing with stress. Getting adequate sleep can actually be a good way of coping with stress, so yet another reason to get at least 8 hours a night.
If you need more concrete scientific evidence behind the links between sleep and weight gain consider our hormonal and chemical make up. Our hormones and metabolic regulation appear to have a lot to do with how hungry we feel. Sleep loss has been shown to affect the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite. As a result, individuals who lose sleep may continue to feel hungry despite adequate food intake.
Research shows that sleep-deprived people who had the biggest hormonal changes felt the most hungry and craved carbohydrate-rich foods, including cakes, candy, ice cream, pasta and bread. Those who had the smallest changes reported being the least hungry.
So do a little experiment and aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night this week. Hopefully a good sleep will positively effect the amount of activity you do, reduce your cravings and reduce your cravings.
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