How sleeping well can help you lose weight
If you have ever tried to lose weight and struggled to shed those last few pounds, it’s possible your sleeping patterns were to blame.
A study by the National Sleep Foundation found an intrinsic link between how quality and quantity of sleep can affect body mass index (BMI). They found that those who had a disjointed sleeping pattern were more susceptible to weight gain. This was because the hunger hormone – ghrelin – and the fullness hormone – leptin – could not function as normal. In turn, cravings for foods high in sugar and fat increased.
Those who slept less also experienced a spike in their cortisol levels. Cortisol - also known as the ‘stress hormone’ - makes the reward centres in the brain demand more, which can lead to larger consumption of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks.
Lack of quality sleep also dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe: the area which controls decision making and impulse control. As a result, those who slept less or experienced a poor night’s sleep were less tempted to exercise or to eat a wholesome breakfast.
To help yourself feel better on the inside and out, train yourself to get better quality sleep. Here’s how you can do it.
Top tips for a good night’s sleep
If settling down at the end of the night proves problematic, your body may be struggling to produce melatonin: a chemical that tells the body it needs sleep. This could be happening for a number of reasons, such as sleeping in at weekends, leaving the television on after hours, and exercising late in the day.
Boost your melatonin production by following these four top tips and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
1. Get into a routine
Production of melatonin is governed by your body’s internal clock. If you are sleeping and waking up at varying times each day, your melatonin levels will fluctuate and your body won’t know when it is time to switch off.
By sticking to the same sleep pattern most days, your body will naturally learn how much sleep it needs to function properly. Waking up will also be much easier once you are attuned to your body’s needs.
2. Set the scene
Although your internal clock will be doing much of the work, you also need to tell your body that your environment is a place for deep sleep. You can do this by keeping your bedroom cool, decorating it with soft furnishings, and keeping harsh lighting at bay.
In the same way that darkness tells us it’s time for bed, bright lights tell us it is time to wake up. Naturally, a bedroom with lots of artificial lighting and bright screens, such as from a television or laptop, can disrupt melatonin production in the body, making it much harder to get a good night’s sleep.
3. Exercise smartly
Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, which means that, after exercise, the drop in temperature relaxes the muscles and aids deep sleep. The endorphins released during exercise – also known as the “feel-good” chemicals – may also help to reduce anxiety, encouraging better quality sleep sooner.
However, gym worshippers should aim to finish exercise at least three hours before bed, so that the body has chance to regulate its temperature and relax.
4. Get more sunshine
Studies have found that getting outdoors and exposing your eyes to sunshine could help produce more melatonin later at night.
Although this may appear counter-intuitive, sunlight helps regulate your body clock as part of its “sleep-wake cycle”, so that when the sun goes to bed, your body knows you should too.