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Wellness RX: How Adequate Sleep Helps You Lose Weight

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Not Losing Weight? You Might Not Be Sleeping Enough.

Do you get enough sleep to feel well rested during the day? The Center for Disease Control reports that one in three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep. Getting by on only a couple hours of shuteye is incredibly common in our culture, sometimes a badge of honor, but there are important health implications besides feeling run down. In fact, researchers are studying two phenomena happening at the same time, and how they’re related: Americans are getting less sleep while also gaining more weight. So far, the research says not getting enough sleep creates at least three significant obstacles for getting in your best shape. 

Not getting enough sleep:

1. Makes you hungrier.

Your body produces neurotransmitters that control your feelings of hunger (ghrelin), and help you feel full (leptin), all day long. But not getting enough sleep causes these neurotransmitters to get garbled and disorganized. Slogging through the day can mean your body has no idea whether it’s actually hungry or really quite full. Plus, a tired body also craves energy and guess what foods it thinks of most? Sugar and carbohydrates! While there’s nothing wrong with eating carbs, snacking on candy, breads, muffins and all the other deliciously energy-packed foods you can find, will only make you (a) feel worse when the sugar high inevitably wears off and (b) crave more.  Getting a good night’s sleep can help turn the cravings down.

2. Disregulates your metabolism.

Metabolism is your body’s way of breaking down food to create the energy it needs to survive, and it’s working all the time. Even while you sleep! But when you don’t get enough shut-eye, researchers have found that this disregulation may be responsible for many common health issues: weight gain, obesity, and even type 2 diabetes as part of a chain reaction. When sleep deprived, your body produces more inflammation, which impairs your glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Staying well-rested keeps your metabolism in check.

3. Decreases your chances of working out.

Who’s ever felt like jumping out of bed to go for a run after only a few hours of sleep? Of course you don’t want to exert energy when you’re already wiped out, but not getting enough sleep also affects your balance to such a degree that some otherwise awesome workouts, like weight lifting, become less safe. (Conversely, working out absolutely helps you sleep! That’s especially true when you’re exercising in natural light because your circadian rhythm gets reset. And it doesn’t take much to make a difference. Researchers say that just 22 minutes of moderate exercise a day can improve your concentration and decrease daytime sleepiness.) 

How can you get enough – and better quality – sleep? 

Sleep has become a major topic and while there are plenty of tips on every Pinterest board in the webiverse, here are three science-backed suggestions:

  • Keep your room dark. Sleeping with a light (or TV) on is actually associated with a higher risk of weight gain and obesity than those who sleep in a pitch black setting. Blackout curtains can be a game changer for good sleep, and if that’s too much, a simple sleep mask can also work wonders. 
  • Find a way to reduce your stress. Meditation, therapy and exercise are only a few of the options. Find one that works for you because chronic stress can lead to poor sleep and weight gain (especially when it comes to stress eating.) If stressful thoughts and ideas keep you up at night, some people swear by setting a notepad by the bed. Write out all your worries, concerns and “things I need to remember to do.” That way it’s off your mind and onto the paper, setting you up for a good night’s sleep.

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