Is Your Sleep Helping or Hurting Your Weight Loss Efforts?

By Derek

If you want to lose more weight and have better sleep then you need to read this article!

How well would you say you slept last night?

According to the National Sleep Foundation a staggering 35% of Americans reported their sleep quality as “Poor” or “Fair.” While a good night’s sleep is appreciated by all, the true importance of quality sleep hygiene evades most of us.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the first published report to document state-based estimates of self-reported healthy sleep duration for in the United States. On average, 65 percent of adult respondents reported a healthy sleep duration of 7 hours or more in a 24-hour period in 2014, with 35 percent of adults reporting insufficient sleep. To promote optimal health and well-being, adults aged 18–60 years are recommended to sleep at least 7 hours each night. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and all-cause mortality. What’s interesting is that the prevalence of insufficient sleep is much higher in those who have obesity (30%) compared to individuals of a normal body mass index (22%).

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Earnest Hemingway

This only scratches the surface of the importance of sleep. Your sleep hygiene is much more important to your success after bariatric surgery than you previously thought. Sleep is the time for us to “recharge our batteries,” but our bodies are doing much more than just resting.

Sleep and Weight Loss

If you’ve ever needed a reason to sleep in, this is it!

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that your sleep hygiene plays an integral part in your weight loss efforts. There is evidence that shorter sleep duration and obesity are linked.

In order for our bodies to shed body fat we must regularly maintain a calorie deficit (eat fewer calories than our body burns). During a time of calorie restriction it has been found that our sleep hygiene can either help or hurt us in our weight loss efforts. In this study a group of adults restricted their calories for 14 days. Separated into two groups, one group slept 8.5 hours per night while the other slept only 5.5 hours per night.

The results: the 5.5 hour group loss 55% less fat and lost 60% more muscle during the 14 weeks compared to the group that slept 8.5 hours!

Sleep and Hormones

Our hormones help to regulate the metabolic functions of the body, regulate the rate of chemical reactions in various cells to name a few important functions.

Several of our hormones are produced while we are asleep.

Growth hormone is responsible for growth, cell reproduction and cell regeneration. It is a key player in our daily recovery. Growth hormone is secreted during the deeper phases of sleep. It has been found that insufficient sleep leads to a decrease in growth hormone production and secretion. This is bad because the regeneration process is integral in the maintenance of muscle, especially when we are restricting our calories to lose fat.

Cortisol, sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone,” is a hormone that is released when we are experiencing stress. Any stress from traffic or a dispute that leaves us feeling emotionally drained can result in the release of cortisol. Another way to place stress on our bodies is by maintaining a calorie restrictive state. This is the goal after bariatric surgery so it is fair to say that there will be a measurable amount of stress placed on the body.

As cortisol levels rise so do the levels of ghrelin (hormone that makes us feel hungry). This is bad for weight loss efforts because the more stressed we get, we tend to eat more and blunt weight loss efforts.

It has been proven that sleep deprivation causes cortisol levels to rise dramatically. So not only is your body stressed while you restrict calories, now your adding more stress by depriving it of sleep.

A recipe for disaster when fat loss is the goal.

Sleep and our Mood

It has been documented that lack of sleep can affect our cognitive efficiency, but what about your mood? Do you ever feel cranky after a bad night’s sleep?

It has actually been shown that lack of sleep affects our mood more than it affects our mental performance. Also, this study found that regular bouts of poor sleep lead us to react much more emotionally and negatively when an unpleasant event occurs. This increased moodiness can turn a potentially fine day into a disastrous “worse day of my life.”

A study performed at the University of Pennsylvania found that individuals who slept only 4.5 hours a night for 7 days felt more stressed, angry, sad and mentally fatigued. After returning to a normal sleep pattern and duration they experienced a wonderful improvement in mood.

How much sleep do you need?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults; however, as with most subjects a “one size fits all” approach is hardly an accurate recommendation.

Every person has specific needs, though the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendation is certainly a good jumping-off point.

The best way to figure out your personal sleep duration needs is to do a little experiment. The next time you have a few extra days to sleep in (vacation is a great opportunity for this) try this test:

  • Go to sleep at a normal time – don’t stay up later just because you know you can sleep in
  • Do not set an alarm
  • You will wake up naturally at some time. If you need to catch up on your sleep you will sleep longer than you would normally need because you’re catching up. After a couple of days you will be caught up and will naturally wake up in your body’s “sweet spot”
  • Sleeping less than this newly discovered duration will put you in a sleep deprived state over time

Tips for sound sleep

Avoid naps – while the coveted “power nap” may be enticing to help you get through the day, it could end up costing you precious sleep at night.

Exercise – it has been proven that regular exercise improves chronic insomnia. Not only is exercise good for our weight loss efforts but will help us catch some extra winks.

Avoid stimulants – alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes (cigarettes should be avoided anyways, but we’re just talking about sleep here) all have been shown to disrupt sleep.

Take melatonin – melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced in your body. Melatonin is produced when the sun goes down and your body is not subject to the harsh light of day. Indoor lighting and especially blue light emitted by television, tablet and phone screens can disrupt the production of melatonin. Luckily there is supplemental melatonin that can be purchased at any drug store.

Start by taking .3-1 mg of supplemental melatonin about 90 minutes before going to bed.

Has the quality of your sleep changed after having bariatric surgery?

What helps you sleep better? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!


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