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18 Oct

Want to lose weight? Get in the sack

Does too little sleep make you fat? Researchers think it sabotages our attempts to lose weight.

The sciencey bit

A 2011 American study by Kaiser Permanente looked at almost 500 people wanting to lose weight.

Over six months, participants had to maintain attendance at counselling sessions, eat 500 fewer calories a day and exercise at least three hours a week.

Sixty per cent lost 10 lbs or more and those most likely to succeed were those sleeping regularly six to eight hours a night. Reducing stress levels also helped.

Why does good sleep help us to lose weight?

Well, it doesn’t on its own of course. But it can really help whilst dieting. Researchers from this and other studies think there could be a range of reasons:

·         “Sleep deprivation leads to deficits in cognitive functioning, whether it’s reaction time, decision-making, or memory” says the founder of NYC Sleep Doctor. If you’re chronically tired, it follows that it can be difficult to commit to exercise or stick to healthy, less gratifying, food choices

·         Lack of sleep affects our hormones, increasing levels of ghrelin, the one that tells us we’re hungry, and decreasing leptin, the one that tells us we’re full. So our bodies actually prompt us to eat more

·         Too little sleep also leaves our bodies less able to deal with insulin, says a study in Annals of Internal Medicine. Being unable to process sugar optimally leaves us with higher blood sugar levels, again leading to us eating more

·         A lack of sleep may make our bodies think we’re in danger, prompting them to go into survival mode. Whilst they try to maintain their resources and go on the hunt for more fuel, our metabolism slows down. So we’re not going to burn calories at the usual, higher rate

·         The stress hormone cortisol increases with sleep-deprivation. When we’re stressed our bodies needs the calming serotonin. The bad news is, this can only be made by our bodies after sweet or starchy carbohydrates are eaten. So stress makes us reach for the carbs.

You can see how getting into a destructive cycle of eating energy-dense food can quickly become the norm. This can easily develop into a ‘coping behaviour’ and a rewarding habit that becomes difficult to break. 

So what do we need to do?

To feel better and increase your chances of getting to your weight loss target might be as simple as combining your diet programme with more sleep. Try:

·         Getting to bed earlier – count back 8 hours from the time you set your alarm for

·         Thinking positively about sleep. It’s not wasted time. It’s providing essential fuel needed to repair and prepare your body for the day ahead

·         Using exercise and/or meditation to reduce your levels.

Taking steps to improve your sleep and reduce stress will help you stick to your weight loss target. We know another way that helps with this too. Joining a group of like-minded slimmers, led by a friendly, encouraging coach has been shown to help people stick to their goals. So walk this way to find a coach near you. We’d love to help you lose your weight your way. 


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