Having Trouble Losing Weight? It May be More Than Just Your Diet

Last week, the New York Times posted an article about a recent research study on the complicated relationship between exercise and sleep quality. After reading it, I started thinking about how exercise, diet, and sleep all play an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. In fact, if you neglect sleep, all of the hard work you put in to exercising regularly and eating right may not achieve the results you expected. Sleep is one thing that I often neglect to ask about when talking with patients about their weight, but it could have the potential to make a significant impact on weight management.

Sleep and Weight: A Complicated Relationship
It wasn’t difficult to find studies that have looked at the relationship between sleep and weight. Most were based on subjective information about sleep via survey from the research participants, with a couple that directly measured sleep. Surprisingly, there was a stronger relationship there than I had thought. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Sleep deprivation decreases the hormone leptin (tells you when you are full) and increases ghrelin (hunger hormone). Ghrelin doesn’t just make you hungry, it also tends to make you crave high calorie, unhealthy foods. Also, the more tired you are, the less will power you have to resist temptation. (Source)
  • The relationship between lack of sleep and a higher BMI was stronger in children than adults. (Source)
  • A U-shaped trend appears for adults. This means that 8-9 hours of sleep (at the bottom of the U) is associated with the lowest average BMI. Sleep hours under and over 8-9 hours will lead to increased BMI. (Source)
  • With fewer hours of sleep, you are often fatigued, which means you are more likely to forgo your normal exercise routine. (Source)
  • Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a drop in core body temperature which can cause a decrease in energy expenditure. (Source)
  • Short sleep duration may also put you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. (Source)

So, if you are following a healthy diet and being physically active and have yet to see the scale budge, perhaps you may consider your sleep patterns as well. Here are a few tips for getting a better nights sleep via Harvard Health:

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • Make sure your bedroom is an inviting sleep environment by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Don’t bring your work or electronics with you to bed.
  • Establish a pre-sleep routine.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Avoid naps.
  • Eat a lighter dinner meal.
  • Exercise earlier in the day or at least 3 hours before bed.

Do you have any tips for getting enough sleep? Have you ever struggled with cravings after a night of inadequate sleep?

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