Want to lose weight? You might want to consider going to bed early instead of hitting the gym. It sounds too good to be true, but a growing body of evidence suggests that getting enough sleep can help aid weight loss. Here are five reasons why you should consider getting more shut-eye...
1. Regulates hunger
Ever noticed how you want to eat more when you're tired? Studies show that getting inadequate sleep lowers levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite – at the same time, it increases grehlin, a hormone that controls hunger. Experts believe that sleep helps our bodies keep hunger hormones in check, ensuring sure we feel hungry only when we should.
2. Combats cravings for fatty foods
Not only do people want to eat more calories after a bad night's sleep, the body craves calorie-dense foods, making it even harder to stick to the diet.
In one study, researchers looked at the brain scans of sleep deprived people and those who slept well, and quizzed them about their food cravings. After a bad night, people craved more calorie-dense food the next day (eating 600 calories more) compared to when they had a good night's sleep. Not only that, the area of their brains associated with making rational decisions was inhibited, making it harder for them to resist temptation.
3. Helps you stick to your diet
A number of studies have shown that people who get a good amount of sleep (six to eight hours) lose more weight than those who sleep for less than six hours or more than eight.
It's not just the number of hours you spend in bed that matters – having uninterrupted sleep is important too. A recent study of overweight and obese women found that those who woke up five or more times a night found it harder to stick to a seven-month diet. As a result, they lost significantly less weight that the women who slept through the night.
4. You're more likely to exercise
When you're feeling exhausted, the last thing you want to do is exercise. At the same time, feeling sleepy affects your motivation and drive in general, making it harder to stick to the new fitness regime. Conversely, after a good night's sleep you're more likely to have the energy and motivation to workout.
5. Helps your metabolism
Sleep deprivation can interfere with a number of metabolic processes, leading you to burn fewer calories. Lack of sleep also negatively affects glucose tolerance – your body's ability to utilise sugar for fuel. For instance, a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that when adults got only four hours of sleep a night, their bodies became more insulin-resistant – increasing their risk of obesity and diabetes.
No one is suggesting that sleeping more without changing your diet will make you lose weight - but if you're watching calories and exercising, getting a good night's sleep could make all the difference in helping you reach your goals.