The Slumber Solution: Sleep your way to a leaner waist

The Slumber Solution: Sleep your way to a leaner waist

May 23, 2024Simran Nahata

Let's start with the midnight cravings during sleepless nights (of course it's for something sweet). If you can't relate to that, what about that extra caffeine the subsequent morning? Who'd have thought that sleep could control how much we eat and what we crave to eat? There are so many mysteries revolving around sleep and its link to the working of our body but one thing that's clear today is its role in managing calories. It's time we peek into the science of sleep and see if we can really sleep off the extra calories. 

Although individual sleep quantities vary, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night with women requiring 10-20 minutes more than men. If you are sleeping less than 6-7 hours consistently, you are not only inviting dark circles but also unnecessary health concerns including weight management issues.

Over the decades, the amount of time adults spend sleeping has decreased along with sleep quality. The average body mass index (BMI) was seen to rise along the same timeline, causing researchers to conduct numerous studies leading to the discovery of sleep affecting weight. Sleep affects your weight by controlling your appetite. Appetite (your desire to eat food) is regulated by hormones (chemical messengers your body depends on for functioning). When your body is sleep deprived, the hormonal balance for appetite is affected, particularly that of ghrelin i.e. ‘hunger hormone’ (signals your brain that you are hungry), and leptin i.e. ‘satiety hormone’ (signals your brain upon satiation). 

When sleep is insufficient, ghrelin levels rise, stimulating appetite, while leptin levels decrease, signaling the brain that you're NOT full and making you eat more. This imbalance leads to overeating and cravings, contributing to weight gain over time. Insufficient sleep also impairs glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, paving the way for insulin resistance and ultimately promoting fat storage.

Just like inadequate sleep is associated with weight gain, excessive sleep (> 10 hours per day) can disrupt your hormones and impact your weight by causing disturbances in your physical activity, mental health issues, altering your metabolism and eventually leading to lifestyle disorders.

It is important to note that while disruption in sleep quality and quantity affects the process of weight management, your lifestyle factors play a role too, and hence focusing on a balanced diet and physical activity is equally important. For now, follow these practical tips for better sleep:

  1. Prioritize Sleep by aiming for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. 
  2. Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule to maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle.
  3. Follow a Relaxing Bedtime Routine with activities such as reading, gentle stretching, or taking a warm bath.
  4. Maintain a Sleep-Friendly Environment by keeping  your bedroom cool, quiet, dark and of course ventilated.
  5. Limit Screen Time Before Bed or rather avoid using electronic devices before sleeping since the blue light emitted disrupts sleep patterns.
  6. Avoid Heavy meals and Beverages close to bedtime.

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