As you’re working toward your weight loss goal, you probably keep several things in mind. You know that a healthy diet is important, exercise really helps, and you need to burn more energy than you consume. But there’s actually a secret ingredient that many people overlook, often because they’re working so hard to accomplish their goal.
So what’s the surprising secret ingredient? Sleep! During that eight hours of shut-eye, your body is repairing the stress to muscles caused by exercise. It goes without saying that if you don’t get enough sleep one night, you might not feel as motivated to exercise the next day.
Even more importantly, sleep disruption can affect your body’s production of two very important hormones: leptin and cortisol. And when these hormones are out of balance, it can affect your ability to lose weight.
Leptin is the hormone responsible for controlling appetite. When your sleep cycles are disrupted, your body doesn’t produce enough leptin. You end up feeling hungry and experience cravings, particularly for simple carbohydrates.
The other hormone affected by sleep deprivation, cortisol, is known as the stress hormone. When you don’t get enough sleep, cortisol production soars, and your body starts taking measures to protect itself from stress. Fat storage in cells increases, because your metabolism slows.
Clearly, this can lead to a double whammy that has a negative effect on your weight loss efforts. Sleep deprivation causes cravings for sugary foods, and then those foods aren’t metabolized and are stored as fat instead!
So what can you do? Remember that sleep is just as important as adequate exercise and healthy eating. Take measures to reduce stress in your life, because it can lead to insomnia. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, and limit “screen time” an hour or two before bedtime. Invest in a good mattress, heavy drapes to block out light, and earplugs or a white noise machine if you’re a light sleeper. Remember that sleep is an important part of your health, and it’s just as worthy of your attention as nutrition and exercise.