You might be suffering from sleep deprivation — even if you swear you’re getting enough sleep at night. Getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
There are also scientific reasons why a lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.
Sleep is important for pretty much every one of your physical systems. Sleep deprivation leads to deficits in cognitive functioning, whether it’s reaction time, decision-making, or memory. Sleep is essential for beyond just what’s going on in your brain, too. Sleep is involved in the repair and restoration of the body. The rest that happens during sleep really rejuvenates your body for the next day.
Plus, you might be suffering from the symptoms of sleep deprivation, even if you think you’re spending enough time in bed. Just 30 minutes of sleep loss could make you more likely to gain weight.
Why Sleep Deprivation Causes Weight Gain:
Losing out on sleep creates a vicious cycle in your body, making you more prone to various factors contributing to weight gain. The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite. Often, that means reaching for bad-for-you foods. When you’re stressed, your body tries to produce serotonin to calm you down. The easiest way to do that is by eating high-fat, high-carb foods that produce a neuro-chemical reaction.
A lack of sleep also decreases your body’s ability to process the sweet stuff. When you’re sleep deprived, the mitochondria in your cells that digest fuel start to shut down. Sugar remains in your blood, and you end up with high blood sugar. Losing out on sleep can make fat cells 30 percent less able to deal with insulin.
When you’re wiped out, your hormones go crazy, too, boosting levels of the ghrelin, which tells you when you’re hungry, and decreasing leptin, which signals satiety.
Another reason you might put on weight when you’re sleep deprived is because your body goes into survival mode. Sleeplessness can fool your body into thinking you’re in danger. Your metabolism slows because your body is trying to maintain its resources, and it also wants more fuel.
Luckily, there are easy ways to make sure sleep never gets in between you and your goal weight again. First, figure out your bedtime. Count eight hours before the time you need to wake up. That’s your “lights out” time, which should ensure you’re getting enough sleep to make your body wake itself up at the proper time (maybe even before an alarm goes off). And keep that wake-up time consistent. Doing that and getting out of bed at the same time sets your body’s clock so you’ll be tired around the same time every night.
If you feel like you’re still having sleep issues, ask a specialist for help! Write a diary of your sleep that you can show to doctor. Try to really get a sense of what’s going on day-to-day. Record what time you’re going to bed, roughly what time you fall asleep, if you’re waking up in the middle of the night, when you wake up in the morning, and what time you get out of bed. Also make sure to write down other sleep-related markers, like how you feel throughout the day, exercise, caffeine intake, alcohol and stress levels.
Most important of all, make sleep a priority. It’s physically unhealthy to lose sleep.