Recently, I gave a talk about the importance of sleep at a wellness event. Rather than my standard “Better Sleep for Better Health” discussion, I decided to focus on the importance of sleep for those struggling with weight, so I called it: Sleep Your Way Skinny. I was amazed that this group of people was so well-versed in so many aspects of a healthy lifestyle (diet, yoga, pilates, etc.), but knew SO LITTLE about the impact sleep deficit has on body weight.
It was easy for them to see how being tired can make you less likely to get up and go to the gym. It also seemed intuitive that, when tired, most people crave the simple carbohydrates that they should avoid to lose weight (who reaches for a carrot stick rather than a candy bar for a pick me up?). What virtually no one in the room knew was that sleep deficit causes basic metabolic changes that make weight loss more difficult. Secretion of Leptin and Ghrelin, two main “appetite controlling” hormones, are impacted by sleep loss, making people more hungry when they are tired. And glucose metabolism is also impaired, creating a sort of “pre-diabetic” state in sleep deprived people, leading to increased fat deposition.
The take home message? Easy – if you are trying to be healthy, ESPECIALLY if you are trying to lose weight, get enough sleep. Think of diet, exercise and sleep as a triad – equally important to health and well being. Ignore any one and your results will suffer, but meet your body’s need for all three and you will benefit immensely.