Why Did I Eat That?
We all know that when we are sleep deprived, we don’t always make the best decisions. Lack of sleep dulls the activity in the area of the brain that is responsible for decision-making and impulse control. You don’t have the mental capacity to make smart choices when you are sleepy. At the same time that the frontal lobe is being dulled, your sleepiness is “amping” up the “reward” center. You brain starts telling you to look for something that feels good like a piece of double chocolate cake. Research has shown that sleep deprived people tend to have more late night snacking of larger portions of high carbohydrate foods than people who “sleep like a log” every night.
You might think that when you are awake for more hours, your body will be burning more calories, but that is not the case. A sleep-deprived body is usually low on energy so you are less active and motivated to exercise, but you are hungrier because your body needs food energy to stay awake. You eat more and move less. And since your body builds muscle and repairs tissue while you sleep, less sleep equals less time for muscle repair and growth. Why is this an issue? The more muscle your body has, the more metabolically active it is and the more efficient it burns calories. Sleepless nights turn your body from a highly efficient energy furnace to a smoldering energy campfire.
In addition, research has shown that when we don’t get enough sleep, we throw our hormones out of whack. The appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are impacted greatly from a lack of sleep. Ghrelin tells your body when it is time to eat, while leptin tells your body when it is time to stop eating. When you fail to get enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin and less leptin so you eat more because your body thinks it needs it and it doesn’t know when to stop.
Another hormone that is affected by too many late nights is cortisol, which is commonly known as the stress hormone. If your body is under stress, it will signal your brain to conserve energy and hold onto your fat stores. Cortisol levels spike with a lack of sleep resulting in a heightened stress level for your body.
But the biggest affect of sleep deprivation on your body and your weight comes from the disruption in your body’s ability to process insulin. The hormone insulin is needed to change sugars, starches and other foods into energy that your body can use. If your body can’t breakdown and process food from your bloodstream, it is more likely to get stored as fat. To make matters worse, insulin promotes the release of leptin so a disruption in insulin leads to less leptin and a decreased ability to know when to walk away from the refrigerator.
Don't Be Afraid Of The Unknown
It is clear that getting enough sleep will not help you drop 10 pounds over night, but it will definitely work to your advantage when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And, a prolonged lack of sleep will definitely hinder your weight loss/maintenance and could even cause you to gain a few pounds. So turn off your electronic devices at least an hour before hitting the sack, create a bedtime routine, stick to “wake up” schedule and turn the lights off to ensure that you have a restful 8 so you can wake up each morning ready to take to a Real Bite of life.