The pandemic had a unique effect on people’s sleep patterns. Those who had issues with insomnia before the start of the pandemic experienced improvements in sleep quality. Yet, the same can’t be said for individuals who slept just fine before the beginning of the pandemic.
In those individuals, sleep quality worsened in 20% of participants. If you have started noticing worsening sleep patterns, you may wonder if there is a link between sleep and weight loss. Maybe those additional pounds could be closely tied to the few hours of sleep you keep shaving off each night.
Luckily, we are going to answer all your questions surrounding sleep and weight loss in our complete guide. In this article, we will answer “how does sleep affect weight?” and how to participate in a research-backed medical weight loss program, so keep reading on for more information!
Table of Contents
The Mystery of Sleep
For many decades, researchers have aimed to uncover the mystery of what happens when you fall asleep each night; and on the other hand – what happens when you don’t sleep well throughout the night.
To better understand sleep and weight, it is crucial to have an idea of what goes on with your neurons and neurotransmitters for several hours nightly. There are four primary stages of sleep:
- Stage 1 (non-REM)
- Stage 2 (non-REM)
- Stage 3 (non-REM)
- REM sleep
Stage 1 is the initial minutes once you fall asleep and is fairly light sleep. Brain waves begin to slow down, and your heart rate, breathing, and eye movements also start lowering. Stage 2 is similar to Stage 1 and characterized by muscle relaxation and slower brain activity.
However, in Stage 2, you start experiencing brief bursts of electrical activity, which is the longest sleep stage you spend time in. Stage 3 is the stage of deep sleep. Most of Stage 3 occurs during the beginning of the night.
Lastly, REM sleep occurs multiple times throughout the night, usually within the first 90 minutes. It should increase in length throughout the night and is usually where dreaming occurs. It also has marked differences in brain activity from other stages and is more similar to waking hours.
Benefits of Quality Sleep
At its core, quality sleep helps with overall health, including cognition and mood. Lack of sleep can increase your risk for several diseases or illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, and dementia.
Experts have broken down healthy sleep into three categories:
- How much sleep do you get each night?
- Is your sleep uninterrupted?
- Is your sleep schedule consistent?
When you fall to sleep, your brain starts going into “repair mode.” It eliminates waste and toxins, boosting immune function and other effects. Here are some other benefits of quality sleep:
- Improved energy
- Reduced blood pressure
- Blood sugar regulation
- Improved concentration
- Improved problem solving
- Reduced stress
- Reduced risk of injury
- Increased appetite suppressant
Inadequate sleep affects productivity, judgment, and can even make you feel hungrier. Unfortunately, a week’s worth of poor sleep cannot be fixed with a simple nap or a day on the weekend to sleep in. It is extremely important you start setting more regular sleep schedules.
What Factors Impact Your Weight Loss Journey?
There are several factors that affect how you lose weight, including your sleep quality. Other weight loss factors include:
- Physical activity
- Lifestyle habits and culture
- Medical conditions
Some things are out of your control, like genetics, race, age, or sex. As you age, you are more likely to gain weight until around age 65. Additionally, obesity is higher amongst African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos.
Females are also more at risk for obesity than males. Yet, males tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen, predisposing them to several health risks or problems.
Lifestyle Choices and Weight Loss
Physical activity and what you eat plays an important role in your weight loss journey. In fact, diet and exercise are also closely intertwined with sleep and vice versa. Exercise can improve your sleep quality, with the ideal time in the afternoon or early evening period.
Exercise also has benefits in reducing rates of insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. Additionally, eating healthy helps fuel your body for adequate exercise and promotes a healthier body weight. Nutritional deficiencies can increase food cravings.
For example, sugar cravings are often a sign that you have low levels of zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, or other essential vitamins and minerals. Increased cravings can lead to poor dieting, eating behaviors, and excess weight gain. Without proper nutrition, you could also suffer from difficulties getting enough sleep.
Recent studies found that the most important lifestyle factor for mental health is sleep quality. This particular research article showed that less than eight hours of sleep or more than twelve hours was more closely tied to depressive symptoms.
Physical activity and diet were also linked to improved mental health but did not have a substantial impact on sleep hygiene and quality. Adults who slept for 9.7 hours had fewer depressive symptoms. Feelings of well-being had the highest reports at eight hours of sleep.
Sleep and Weight Loss
Does sleep impact your weight? In short: yes!
A 2-week study looked at adults aged 21 to 40. All adults averaged fewer than 6.5 hours of sleep nightly. One group was under the sleep hygiene group and aimed to extend sleeping hours to 8.5.
The other group was the control group and instructed to continue with their current sleep habits. In this study, diet and exercise prescriptions were excluded. After two weeks, the sleep extension group improved their daily sleep by 1.2 hours.
This group also had a decrease in energy intake, resulting in greater weight reduction compared to the control group. How much sleep is considered ideal? For the average adult, you should aim for around seven to nine hours nightly.
Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain
More research has shown the importance of sleep for weight loss. In another study, researchers examined the correlation between sleep deprivation and weight gain.
Experts estimate that around 25% of adults average five to six hours of sleep or less each night. Yet, the NHANES found that obesity rates increased in adults with fewer than seven hours of sleep nightly. Along with an increase in obesity rates, sleep deprivation can lead to:
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Premature death
Sleep deprivation over a five-day course can result in temporary weight gain. Physiological hunger cues also increase with chronic sleep deprivation, as evidenced by elevated ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that stimulates appetite.
In this same study, experts discovered that reduced sleep resulted in greater hunger ratings by 24% and a 33% increase in calorie consumption, specifically carbohydrates.
How To Maintain Your Ideal Body Weight
After achieving the ideal weight loss and body fat percentage, sleep is essential in maintaining your ideal body weight. In study groups where participants lost substantial weight over 12 months, daily sleep variability onset increased participants’ likelihood of:
- Weight regain
- Body fat percentage
On the contrary, participants who consistently went to sleep between 19:00 and 22:00 had lower diastolic blood pressure readings. The conclusion was that consistent sleep schedules were the biggest variable in weight regain and maintaining an ideal body fat percentage.
How To Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Luckily, there are many ways you can naturally improve your sleep hygiene and help in your weight loss journey. First and foremost, start with a consistent sleep schedule. This includes waking up at the same time, even on the weekends!
In return, your body adjusts to this natural sleep schedule and can reduce daytime fatigue. Remember, you should aim for at least seven hours of sleep nightly. Here are some other helpful sleep hygiene tips:
- Find a relaxing bedtime routine
- Turn off your electronic device
- Don’t exercise right before bedtime
- Limit caffeine
- Lower the temperature
- Only use your bed for sleep and sex
- Limit daytime napping
Electronic devices are many adults’ go-to methods before bed. Even catching up on some reading via your phone can reduce melatonin levels. Start your bedtime routine approximately 30 to 60 minutes before you try and go to sleep, including shutting off your electronic devices or putting them on silent.
If you find yourself sensitive to caffeine, try limiting it to the morning. Caffeine can remain in your system for three to seven hours, keeping you awake longer than you may want when it comes time for bed. Lastly, aim for a cool bedroom temperature set between 60°F and 67°F.
Medical Weight Loss Programs
Medical weight loss programs can help you develop a healthy sleep schedule and promote weight loss. Many adults resort to crash dieting or costly programs that burn a hole in their wallets and make it harder to achieve healthy weight loss goals.
It is important that you research medical weight loss programs and talk to your doctor beforehand. Be transparent in any medications, supplements, or other weight loss programs you have tried.
Medical weight loss program safety is the most critical component. It is vital that these programs are backed by medical experts and evidence-based practices. Instead of simply providing you with ways to eat healthier, a quality program will also have lifestyle coaching and online support.
Programs like UnCraveRx use lifestyle coaches, weight maintenance plans, and certified medical providers. You may also receive access to:
- Medication (as needed and under medical supervision)
- Customizable short and long-term goals
- Lifestyle goals
- Coping strategies
- Physical activity plans
- Food journaling
- Specific meal plans
The primary goal of UnCraveRx is establishing long-term, healthy goals that help you lose excess weight and live a healthier life. Using our certified professionals and counselors will help you develop coping strategies and stress management tools to combat food cravings and establish better sleep routines.
Do Weight Loss Programs Work?
Not every weight loss program works, and you should be wary of programs that emphasize a quick fix or promote weight loss without lifestyle changes. Extreme dieting causes more harm in the long run.
It also promotes long-term weight gain, which could be more difficult to lose. Extreme dieting poses risks for:
- Irregular blood sugar levels
- Muscle atrophy
- Slower metabolic rate
On average, you should avoid losing more than 1% of your body weight weekly. Rapid weight loss could actually be the result of muscle loss, with experts finding that you lose nearly three times the amount of muscle when losing weight too quickly.
This can also impact your heart health, causing arrhythmias or death. Insulin spikes and drops also predispose you to diabetes and poor insulin regulation. Ultimately, you put yourself at risk for several health consequences, mood disorders, and low energy.
Medically supervised and long-term weight loss programs are effective and help you establish healthy goals and habits. These programs differ from short crash diets by offering consistent support, exercise programs, and healthy meals catered to your needs. You also have regular interactions with skilled professionals that ensure you are not losing too much weight and placing yourself at risk for some of the conditions noted above.
Start Your Weight Loss Journey
Have you wondered if there was a connection between sleep and weight loss? Now that you understand the importance of sleep in losing and maintaining a healthy weight, you might need some help getting started.
Achieving a healthy weight is multi-faceted, stemming from improving your lifestyle habits. Diet, exercise, and sleep are the three pillars of success in weight loss. Stress, work habits, and even your electronics can make it challenging to meet your goals.
Are you ready to start your weight loss journey? Find a provider today and begin a new and healthy way to lose weight!