Sleep, those precious hours that often get cut short in the midst of our busy, over-scheduled, over-stressed lives could be the real culprit behind our nation’s obesity epidemic. According to new research, sleep is just as important as diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss. Here’s why.
Reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers touted the benefits of sleep and how a lack of it can contribute to our waistlines:
Chronic sleep restriction is pervasive in modern societies, and there is robust evidence supporting the role of reduced sleep as contributing to the current obesity epidemic.
Why does a lack of sleep lead to weight gain? Apparently, our hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism don’t work correctly when we don’t get enough sleep. Therefore, when we’re tired, we tend to eat more. Sugary, high-carb snacks, anyone?
In one study, overweight adults were put on a diet of just 680 calories a day. One group slept for 8.5 hours a night and the other slept only 5.5 hours a night. Two weeks later, the group that slept less lost 55% less body fat and 60% more lean body mass. That’s not good.
In another study, the researchers followed a group of adults over six years. At the end of that time, those who got less sleep gained more weight. In fact, people who were getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night gained 5 pounds less than those who were sleep-deprived with less than six hours per night.
In addition to our brains telling us to eat more when we’re tired, the researchers also concluded that when the body doesn’t get enough rest, it holds on to more fat, thus making weight loss and fat loss harder.
Not that sleep is the only measure for weight loss, but it stands to reason that those who get less sleep may not be as engaged in a healthy lifestyle. This research is indicative of our society’s fast-paced life where we don’t take the time to eat properly, make healthy meals with fresh food, exercise enough and get outdoors daily. According to the CDC, 41 million Americans don’t get enough sleep today. Sadly, proper shut-eye has become one more thing that we are short-changing ourselves on–and it’s showing up on our waistlines.