Most people use exercise and a healthy diet to maintain their weight. While those are two key factors, many people forget one more important contributor—sleep. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night to maintain optimum health. Sleep deprivation sends your body into survival mode, which increases your appetite and food cravings, leaving you with unwanted weight gain.
Your Brain and Sleep
The body performs important functions while it sleeps. Much of your body’s restoration and repair work takes place while you’re unconscious. It’s during these quiet hours that you have spare energy that can be used for these important functions. Your brain, too, uses that downtime to reset, repair, and get ready for the day.
Sleep deprivation actually slows down your neurons, those cells that send signals in the brain. In an attempt to get the sleep it needs, your brain slows reaction times, reasoning, and problem-solving in the hopes you will drift off to sleep. At the same time, the brain starts changing the amount of hormones released for controlling the appetite and metabolism.
Sleep Deprivation and Appetite Control
Have you noticed how much hungrier you are when you’re tired? That’s because the brain releases the hormones that control hunger in different amounts when you’re sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation boosts your hunger. While your body is slower to send out and recognize the hormone that signals satiety.
Not only that, the kind of foods you crave when you’re tired changes too. You’re more likely to reach for chips, cookies, and other high-fat, sugary foods when sleep deprived. With an increase in your food intake and the desire to reach for unhealthy foods, it’s no wonder that getting a full seven hours of shut-eye is critical to regulating your metabolism and weight.
How to Get More Sleep
Getting the high-quality sleep you need starts long before you lay down at night. What you eat and your daily habits affect your ability to get a good night’s rest. A few ways to set yourself up for success include:
Regular Exercise Early in the Day: Exercise helps maintain your weight but it also helps establish the right conditions for better sleep. You’re more tired at night if you’ve done 30 minutes of vigorous exercise earlier. Avoid exercising within four hours of bedtime as the release of endorphins and rise in body temperature may keep you awake.
Avoid Stimulants: Caffeine and alcohol can both disturb sleep patterns. Caffeine can keep you awake while alcohol interrupts your sleep during the night. Stop drinking caffeine in the early afternoon. If you can, stop drinking alcohol within four hours of your bedtime.
Create the Right Environment: A quiet, soothing bedroom helps you relax and relieve stress. Keep your bedroom temperature between 60-68 degrees at night. Reduce light and sound as much as possible.
Establish a Consistent Bedtime: Your brain helps regulate your circadian rhythms, those processes your body cycles through every day. A consistent bedtime helps to solidify the release of the hormones that make you tired. Along those same lines, try to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends to your brain and body on schedule.