This article is going to explore the effects that poor/limited sleep has on your body and how this can also affect your weight loss program and ability to get lean, ripped and lose weight.

Your body weight varies mainly depending on how much/little food you eat, but there are also many other variables that can have an indirect effect on your ability to lose weight and keep it off. Recent studies have suggested that the less sleep you get, the more your hormones will be impacted, significantly affecting how you feel on a diet, and how well you stick to that diet.

Brain Function

A lack of sleep directly influences your brain function by setting it up to make bad decisions. Sleep deprivation, or sleep debt, happens when you either don’t get enough rest, or a poor night’s sleep. When this happens, it dulls the activity in your brain’s frontal lobe, which is the area that correlates with decision making and impulse control.

Plus, your brain’s reward center becomes stimulated. Your tired, overworked body is essentially looking for comfort, and you are more likely to turn to comfort foods, especially high-carb, high-fat snacks. Larger portioned meals are also more likely to be chosen by the tired mind.

Hunger Hormones

Rest is like a meal for your brain, and the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours each night to function properly. Without it, the hormones that regulate both hunger and fullness are compromised and are unable to send the messages to the brain to make choices about how much food to eat.

Ghrelin is the hormone that signals your brain when it’s time to eat. It picks up on the signals produced by the body when an energy source is needed for both mental and physical functioning. When you are tired, this hormone is created in larger quantities as your body struggles to work through daily exertion.
Leptin is another hormone that inhibits hunger and regulates energy. A lack of sleep equals a lack of energy causing leptin levels to plummet… this sends a signal to your brain to eat more food. This makes things allot more difficult for you than they need to be when you are following a diet routine. While slipping on your diet and snacking on a cookie will not make much of a difference to your weight loss goals… eating the whole bag will make a difference. And when you are under slept, you will not only feel a greater urge to snack; but you will also have less willpower to be able to stop yourself.

Changes in Fat Cells

These hormone changes have a rapid effect on your body as well, and it doesn’t take much time at all to see and feel the difference. It only takes four days of sleep debt for your body to disrupt your body’s ability to properly use insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows your body to use the energy from food. In fact, insulin sensitivity can drop as much as 30% in this time period.

When insulin is functioning correctly, your fat cells function properly as well, and remove fatty acids and lipids from your bloodstream to prevent fat storage. As you tire, and become more insulin resistant, these fatty tissues circulate in your blood and store themselves in places like your liver- which leads to weight gain and diseases like diabetes.

Sabotage Gym Time

Lack of sleep is the enemy of muscle, which is a big problem (whether we are regularly putting in hours at the gym or not). Not only does being tired influence bad decisions (like deciding to skip the gym), and also create mental and physical fatigue for a less effective workout, but it literally decreases protein synthesis, which is your body’s ability to make muscle.

Muscles are important to body function because they support your skeletal structure, and are crucial to breathing, digestion, and proper blood flow. This directly influences your metabolism. Muscle taxation is affected by your lack of sleep and becomes almost impossible to recover from since the production of growth hormone is compromised. This increases the production of cortisol, explained above, and you fall into a vicious cycle of exhaustion due to stress factors.

Tips for a Better Night’s Rest

Even the most attentive of us can fall into a pattern of poor sleep. As seen above, it doesn’t take long for your body to become compromised from a lack of rest, resulting in both short term and long term health risks. In fact, it is estimated that up to one third of adults are suffering from sleep debt at any given time, meaning they aren’t getting the estimated 7 to 9 hours of rest needed for a healthy sleep duration. And a lack of sleep isn’t only personal, many vehicular and industrial accidents are caused each year due to operator fatigue. So what can you do to help get the shut-eye you need?

  • If you’re still tired despite your best efforts, consider your sleep environment. Old or poor quality mattresses often can be a culprit of discomfort. Replacing a mattress is easier than ever. The Sleep Judge provides a nice list to start you off.
  • Create a bedtime ritual and schedule. If you like to read each night before bed, set a specific time to sit down before bed. It’s important to get the hours you need, so setting a reminder or alarm an hour or so before bed helps get you in the mindset to relax.
  • Turn off the television, tablets, and put down the phone 60 to 90 minutes before sleep each night. All of these devices emit blue light, and disrupt your natural melatonin levels, another hormone that helps regulate your sleep patterns. Blue light mimics daylight and tricks your brain into wakefulness.
  • Save your bedroom for sleep and sex. It should be a place of relaxation, not a place to work or be entertained by electronics.
  • Be mindful of your eating patterns. Heavy meals in the evening may cause discomfort, and sugar and caffeine can stay in your system up to 6 hours, causing you to feel more alert.
  • Cool off your room. Sleeping cool is a healthy choice and allows your body to naturally regulate it’s internal temperature while you sleep without overheating. And it also can support weight loss through the support of brown fats.

Even if you aren’t looking to lose weight, your poor sleep habits are affecting you even more than you know. The less sleep you get, the more prone you are to health issues that can severely compromise your lifestyle over time. And it doesn’t take long to notice a difference in your body health when you haven’t gotten the proper amount of sleep, especially if you have been on a diet and exercise regimen.

To keep your weight in check or to lose weight, make sure to get the proper amount of sleep each night. Brain function and physical exhaustion are a good indicator that you need to reassess your rest habits before more noticeable, long-term problems occur.

By Frank Apodaca