Does sleep really help with weight management?

Weight management is a key aspect of supporting your own health and wellbeing, with excess weight greatly increasing your chance of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. But as anyone who has struggled with their weight will know, losing weight – and keeping it off – can be a huge challenge.

Managing your weight requires a great deal of dedication and perseverance, both in terms of the food you eat and the calories you burn through exercise and daily activity. But these aren’t the only important factors involved. Sleep also has an important part to play.

We’re going to take a closer look at the relationship between sleep and weight management, specifically exploring the impact of sleep on your appetite, your metabolism, and your fitness.

Sleep and your appetite

One way in which weight management is impacted by sleep is through your appetite. Contrary to popular belief, your appetite isn’t just controlled by your stomach – it also depends heavily on the brain, and how different neurotransmitters allow neurons to communicate with each other.

The neurotransmitters ghrelin and leptin are key to how to the function of the brain’s appetite sensors, with ghrelin promoting hunger and leptin making you feel full. The levels of these two neurotransmitters naturally fluctuate throughout the day in order to signal to your body that it’s time to consume calories.

However, a lack of sleep can impact your body’s regulation of neurotransmitters like ghrelin and leptin. One study found that men who got four hours sleep had increased ghrelin levels and decreased leptin levels compared to men getting 10 hours of sleep, while other studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts our food preferences, making us more likely to indulge in high calorie foods and carbohydrates.

Sleep and your metabolism

But it’s not all about your appetite when it comes to sleep and weight management. Sleep can also impact your metabolism, influencing the rate at which calories are burnt in the body.

Your metabolism is the chemical process that converts what you eat and drink into energy. Studies have shown a link between sleep deprivation and a slower metabolism. One study published by the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2014 found that sleep deprivation commonly led to metabolic dysregulation, as well as increased oxidative stress, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance.

Sleep and your fitness

Regular exercise is key to weight management – that shouldn’t be news to anyone in 2021. But a lack of sleep can significantly impact on energy levels, reducing athletic performance and inhibiting motivation. Even worse, it can also make sports and exercising less safe – particularly activities like weightlifting – as your risk of injury will increase with the lack of focus and reduced coordination resulting from sleep deprivation.

On the other hand, exercising regularly is well known for its ability to improve sleep quality. Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity per week can help to improve concentration levels during the day and decrease daytime sleepiness.

Good health can’t exist without good sleep. By prioritising a consistent sleep schedule as part of your weight management efforts, you can help to support your own health and wellbeing in the long run.

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