It may seem like common sense that sleep is essential for good health. We need sleep in order for all of our bodily processes to function properly. Sleep affects the brain and nervous system, the cardiovascular system, metabolic functions and the immune system.
However, many of us do not get the proper sleep we need. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Not only can chronic daytime fatigue affect your participation in daily activities or the extent to which you are able to participate, it can also have a significant impact on your weight and your ability to lose weight, possibly even as much as diet and exercise.
According to the Institute of Medicine, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, which leads to related health issues, including hypertension, depression, diabetes, stroke and heart attack. But more than just leading to weight gain, inadequate sleep can also make it more difficult to lose weight as well. While it may seem logical that the more sleep one gets, the more energy he or she will have to devote to exercise, which could lead to weight loss, the connection between sleep and weight loss is much stronger than that, and more scientific.
Sleep Regulates Your Metabolism
Many people simply do not get enough sleep. However, sometimes this sleep deprivation can be caused by a calcium/magnesium and/or a zinc/copper imbalance within the body. Both of these ratios directly affect metabolism, so if they are in proper balance, you are more likely to get a good night’s sleep, as well as speed up your metabolism and lose a couple of pounds. On the flip side, if these important ratios are not in balance, your metabolic rate can significantly slow down, which will most likely lead to weight gain.
Sleep May Curb Genetic Risks for Obesity
Since some of us are more prone to be overweight or obese due to genetics, proper sleep is even more essential, as sleep deprivation can increase the expression of genetic risks for obesity, according to a study conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Longer periods of sleep are closely associated with lower a body mass index, the measure of actual fat in the body as opposed to weight alone. Although there is nothing we can do about our genetic makeup, the study found that proper sleep can help suppress the genetic influences on body weight, so other factors, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, will be more effective.
Finding Time for Sleep
Regardless of how busy your schedule is, geting a good night’s sleep is critical for all people, but especially for people who would like to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. But what exactly is a good night’s sleep? The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person and changes throughout the course of one’s life. However, it is generally recommended that adults get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. While it may be difficult to do, having a regular sleep schedule, even on the weekends, can help increase the amount of sleep one gets, as well as the quality of sleep.
Getting more sleep is easier said than done, because sometimes it seems as if there just aren’t enough hours in the day for work, family, school and social activities. However, there are techniques you can use to help increase the amount of sleep you are able to get, which could help lead to weight loss.
According to a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, behavioral changes have a significant impact of the quality of sleep and the amount of sleep one is able to get. The study recommends techniques that can be used to combat sleep problems include making a conscious effort to go to bed a little earlier each night, avoiding heavy meals and alcohol right before bed, avoiding caffeine four to six hours prior to bedtime, avoid smoking in general but especially prior to bedtime or during the night, reducing noise and regulating the surrounding temperature to increase comfort.
Developing a regular sleep schedule can also help you to get the essential sleep your body needs to help you combat weight gain. Getting more exercise can also help increase the quality of sleep, as you are more likely to enter a deep, uninterrupted sleep when you exercise in the late afternoon. However, evening workout sessions can actually disturb sleep, due to the increase in adrenaline late in the day.
Beware though: While sleep is essential to weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy weight, excessive sleep can actually cause weight gain as well. Despite a regulated diet and exercise schedule, people who slept between 9 and 10 hours each night were 21 percent more likely to be obese in the 6-year observed period than those who only slept between 7 and 8 hours, according to a recent study.
Jenn Pedde is the community manager for the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Southern California in the Virtual Academic Center, which is the only fully accredited online MSW degree. She’s an avid traveler, and enjoys photography.