Why Sleep Could Be The Secret To Fat Loss

Have you ever wondered why your diet isn’t working, why your exercise regime isn’t having the impact it should on your shape and weight loss? Take a look at your sleeping patterns, they could hold the key to why you aren’t losing fat.

In today’s busy world sleep is often the first thing to be cut down on when time is precious. Even in today’s lockdown environment, studies have reported that peoples sleep is less than ever before. There are many factors that can impact on your ability to sleep, ranging for lack of physical activity, stress and anxiety or even just not prioritizing it.

A Chicago University study followed 10 overweight (but otherwise healthy) individuals agreed between 35 and 49. They were all places on a personalized, balanced diet with a calorie restriction of 90% of what they would need to maintain their weight without exercise. (This means the 10% calorie restriction should cause weight loss without exercise).

Each individual took part in two, two-week study periods. The first where they were given an 8.5hour sleep period per day, and the second where they were restricted to just 5.5 hours of sleep per day. The number of calories consumed throughout the study remained the same. There was no exercise, their daily activities were restricted to home and office-like duties.

During both 2-week periods, the individuals lost on average 6.6lbs (3kg). This wasn’t a surprise. When the investigators looked deeper into the weight loss, they found that during the 8.5 hour sleep periods, the weight loss was 3.1lbs fat (1.4kg) and 3.3lbs (1.5kg) of other, fat-free body mass (eg muscle). During the short-sleep weeks, the individuals lost just 1.3lbs (0.6kg) of fat and 5.3lbs (2.4kg) of fat-free body mass (eg muscle).

“Cutting back on sleep…reduced fat loss by 55%!”

What’s more, when the individuals had more sleep, their hunger levels were significantly decreased, meaning they wanted to snack less and felt more satisfied with their food intake. Why? Because the ‘hunger hormone’ Grehlin remains fairly constant when you have enough sleep, the investigators found that when sleep is restricted, Grehlin levels rose over the two week period (from 75 ng/L to 84 ng/L).

High Grehlin levels have been linked to reduced energy expenditure, a stimulated feeling of being hungry all of the time, an increase in food uptake and fat retention. Not a good response for those wanting to lose weight.

What is important to note about this study is that there was no access to more food. The individuals were given their set number of calories each and every day. So while they felt more hungry on the low-sleep weeks, they couldn’t actually satisfy this hunger and were forced to stick to their diets. Why is this relevant? Because in ‘real-life’ they would likely have turned to the fridge and eaten more, decreasing their weight loss and exacerbating the problem. The gap between those getting enough sleep and those not sleeping would likely have been even bigger in terms of fat loss.

So what should you take from this article? Sleep is really important, not just for your mental wellbeing, concentration and muscle repair, but also for weight loss. If you are struggling to lose weight but feel like you are doing everything right, then take a look at your sleeping habits. How much sleep are you actually getting? You could be ruining all of your hard work through healthy eating and exercise by simply not getting enough sleep.

Other Benefits Of Sleep

Fat loss shouldn’t be your only incentive to sleep more. Sleep also helps to improve your concentration and attention, helping you to make decisions and assessments of risk more competently.

A really key incentive, especially during COVID-19 times, is that sleep helps to keep your immune system strong and healthy, allowing your body enough time to repair and react to anything untoward that might have entered your system.

If you are feeling stressed, anxious or emotional then try to sleep more. Sleep allows your body to repair and allows you to wake up feeling ready and energized to take on the day. A lack of sleep and an increase in stress can cause a cycle of tiredness and increasing stress, making situations feel overwhelming.

Sleep helps you learn, it allows your brain time to organize and process all of the information it has uploaded during the day, storing as memories; short-term and long-term. Have you ever found it more difficult to remember where things are when you’re constantly tired?

Sleep can also help to decrease your risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Not enough sleep and not sleeping soundly could mean that your sympathetic nervous system remains stimulated throughout the night, your body holds a level of stress and isn’t able to shut down enough to repair and recover, it can also have an effect on body’s insulin regulation, with it becoming strained and stopping working as well as it should, often helping to trigger diabetes.

Tips For A Better Nights Sleep

1. Be Active During The Day. Do something productive and expend some energy, whether that’s by joining an exercise class or going for a long walk. Doing something active will not only burn off some built-up energy, but it will also make you feel like you have achieved something, it will stimulate your mind and help to make you feel tired.

2. Talk About Your Concerns. If you are worried about something and you find yourself dwelling on it, then try to talk to someone, even if they only listen. If you haven’t got someone to talk to then write yourself an email, list and explain your worries, sign it off at the bottom and send it to yourself. You aren’t necessarily trying to solve your problems, you are expressing them and relieving the stress and tension that is building by hiding them inside. Sending away or talking about your problems acts as a ‘dump’ – it helps to clear them from your mind and you will feel like a weight has been lifted.

3. Create A Bedtime Routine. Try having a herbal tea (Pukka’s Nighttime Tea is a good choice to start) before you go to bed. Dim the lights in the room where you are relaxing, this will signal to the brain that you are starting to wind down. Try to avoid brightly lit areas in the last 2 hours before bedtime and avoid using your mobile phone or laptop. Aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time in the morning, your body will be thankful for the routine.

4. Evaluate Your Sleep Environment. Think about the following; Are your curtains shutting out enough light? Is it quiet and peaceful? Is your mattress comfortable? Are your pillows too big or too small? Is it too hot or too cold? Is there a draft? Does your partners’ snoring keep you awake? All of these things should be considered and improved to give yourself the best possible night’s sleep, most of them are quick and easy fixes!

Prep your room for a good night sleep, NOW!

This study was performed by the University of Chicago in 2010 and published on 5 October 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.