The relationship between sleep and weight loss isn’t as night and day as you might think. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that suggests getting enough sleep is an important factor in your weight loss endeavors. Losing weight is challenging enough; losing sleep may actually be preventing you from meeting your weight loss goal. So, what is the connection between sleep and weight loss? There is no simple answer, but rather a combination of issues that bind the relationship between sleep, or lack of, and weight loss. You may be affected by one or many of these issues.
A common condition of people who are overweight or obese is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when breathing ceases, sometimes for a minute at a time, several times per night. This condition causes a loss of sleep; even when you think you’re getting several hours of sleep, you may only be getting a few. Sleep apnea can leave you feeling tired, which can lead to seeking out sugary snacks or caffeinated beverages to feel a false sense of energy when you need it. This is a vicious cycle that not only prevents healthy living and weight loss, but actually increases the chances of gaining even more weight over time.
If you’re one of the millions of people that experience chronic stress on a regular basis, your quality of sleep has undoubtedly been negatively affected. The hormone that is released into the body to help deal with chronic stress is called cortisol, and it works against your efforts to lose weight. This type of hormone, when released, fools your body into thinking you’re hungry when you’re not, or are still hungry when you are actually full. Sometimes people that experience high levels of stress use food as a comfort and eat mindlessly. This type of eating will also lead to weight gain over time.
Depression or Anxiety
Other types of conditions that may be affecting your sleep, and therefore your weight, are depression and anxiety disorders. Both of these conditions can prevent you from sleeping when you should be, or may cause you to wake up at odd times. In either case, the lack of appropriate sleep and the conditions themselves can cause you to overeat, eat the wrong types of foods or use food to make yourself feel better. This cycle can cause even more weight gain, which will cause even more depression or anxiety.
Lack of Physical Activity
Another contributing factor to sleeping poorly may be lack of physical activity. When you exercise regularly your quality of sleep increases and your weight decreases. Regular exercise can also help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression and help relieve stress. Planning a 30-minute walk each night can put you on the right track to better sleep and healthy weight loss.
If you’re having trouble sleeping and losing weight, it’s best to consult with your regular physician to rule out sleep apnea or other conditions before embarking on a new exercise program.