Losing weight will be a big challenge for many of us this year. Be it a few pounds, or many. But either way whether the challenge is a mountain or a molehill sometimes there are other factors we overlook in our attempt to lose weight and become healthier versions of ourselves.
Sleep and overall stress levels are two huge factors that can seriously affect your body’s ability to burn fat and lose weight efficiently. It also is extremely important to your overall health. So let’s look into it further.
Some of you may find that this is the easy part, you sleep 8 hours every day without complaint and as a father of a young night owl I have only one thing to say to people like you. You lucky duck.
For the rest of us who don’t sleep well because of a multitude of factors sleep is something we often over look or even sacrifice in our attempt to lose weight. We get up super early to squeeze in a spin class or other workout. Or we end up staying awake all night to finish that report for work because we went to the gym or watched TV early in the evening. So how do we solve the problem and what does sleep do to help us lose weight?
Focusing on the later first sleep has several key benefits for our health and weight loss journey;
- Increased fat loss – Getting plenty of good quality sleep helps with fat loss. A study back in 2009 found that people who slept 8 hours a night lost 56% more fat than those who slept only 5-6 hours per night when subjected to the same diet and exercise programme. This in the long term also helps you maintain a healthy weight as you have retained that healthy metabolically active muscle that the sleep deprived people lost instead of fat.
- Helps reduce stress levels and improve brain function and cardiovascular health.
- Controls inflammation- inflammation has been linked to strokes, diabetes, heart disease, and studies suggest that getting more than 6 hours sleep can help to seriously reduce inflammation markers in the blood.
- Craving control – a lack of sleep will increase glucose depletion in the brain and as a result make you feel cravings for other sugar sources like cake, sweets and fizzy drinks all of which we are looking to avoid if we want to be healthier, leaner and fitter versions of our true selves.
- Increased fat storage – yes the biggest challenge we face sometime when trying to lose weight is that it seems to go back on as quickly as it comes off. Lacking sleep reduces insulin sensitivity and as a result can lead to increased fat storage as our insulin levels swing from high to low. Blood sugar levels rise and we store it as bodyfat rather than burning it off as energy leaving us just as tired and groggy as before.
So what can we do to get more sleep?
Here are 3 great tips to get you started:
- Black out – investing in black out blinds is a great first step and a very simple one. By blocking out external light we help to relax and calm our brain and send stimuli to the brain that it is time to rest. This encourages a faster entry into sleep and reduces the chances of being awoken prematurely by external light entering through your thin curtains. If this isn’t an option for you then a face mask will work just as well. Just make sure it is comfortable. Or you could go full navy seal and cover your windows in tin foil to block out the light completely, but it may make your neighbours think you are a little crazy or think the new Walter White has moved in next door.
- Noise – if you sleep next to a busy main road, or someone whose nose bears the resemblance to a fog horn then you will need this tip. After light noise is the next likely thing to wake you. So start by removing the obvious sounds. Music, text alerts etc can be switched off, rowdy house mates encouraged to silence their rowdy antics and if all else fails and you have to go there, then good old fashioned ear plugs will have to do.
- Phones – I know I know, we live in the internet era and its all too tempting to go deep into the worm hole of the youtube recommended for you section or scroll endlessly through the marshes of instagram or facebook but there is a time and place for it. Try to set your alarm, silence your alerts and set the phone out of arms reach of your bed, then brush your teeth, and ready your self for sleep. DO NOT look at the phone, do not touch or smell the phone again until its alarm wakes you the next morning. All of your friends and followers will still be there tomorrow I promise you.
Stress is another important factor we must consider. It can be caused by a lack of sleep or cause the lack of sleep, but also comes from a variety of other factors each as harmful to our mental health and our weight loss journey.
Stress is most associated in the body with the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is the ‘stress’ hormone and in most cases causes increased levels of insulin which causes your blood sugar levels to drop and continue to drop. As a result you crave junk foods high in sugar, your blood sugar spikes, your insulin spikes in response and the pattern repeats itself. And where pray tell is all this sugar going? Some will be stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles but the majority, especially if you aren’t overly active will be stored as body fat. On the flip side it also reduces testosterone and other muscle building hormone levels due to the rise of cortisol and as muscle levels are reduced and fat increases our metabolism will drop and so we burn less calories and crave more sugar only perpetuating the weight gain issue.
So how can we manage this?
- Get more sleep – there is a reason I put these two factors together, sleep is a crucial way to reduce stress levels in the body and at the same time as we saw above it seriously improves our health as well. Aim to get those 8 hours on average per night and you are off to a great start.
- Reduce caffeine intake – that buzz you feel is an increase in adrenaline and cortisol both of which are useful in small doses but excessive consumption and abuse of this system will leave your body stressed out even if you don’t feel stressed and this could be your trojan horse to weight loss. Instead try to reduce your intake gradually and find other energy boosters like water, sleep and exercise.
- Eat enough food – using restricting diets may give rise to quick weight loss but as many of us know it doesn’t last long term. The weight piles back on soon enough and we have to start over. Well this sudden and at times sharp drop in calories increases the body’s stress levels and if repeated over months and years is really only exacerbating the problem. Instead we need to look at healthy balanced meals and more activity to help us lose weight. It may feel slower than your friends, but long term you will feel better, be healthier and maintain your new weight rather than springing up and down like a jack in the box.
- Exercise – exercise is a great way to reduce stress, from walking in nature to lifting weights any muscular activity is an instant stress reliever and of them all this will give you another big boost in helping with your weight loss as it is building more muscle for your metabolism and helping burn dome extra calories to speed up your journey to health.
- Get some air – research shows that getting fresh air and the sounds of nature are a great stress relief tool. Our bodies love the outdoors even if you think you are more of a house cat. Get out and get some air, even 30 minutes a day is a great start. Go for a walk in the park or forest, get down to the beach or a walk around the lake. Just make sure it is somewhere semi-sheltered from the noise and hub-bub of everyday life and you will thank yourself for it later.
Try these methods and see if it helps. And for more weight loss tips and advice either scan the blog for more posts or check out the ‘Inches and Pounds’ page from the menu up top to start your weight loss journey with us.