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How does sleep affect weight loss? We look at how the two are very intricately connected

A lot of studies seem to show that not getting enough sleep is associated with being more likely to be overweight. However, it is difficult to show if less sleep actually leads to weight gain, or if we are just observing the known, negative effect of being overweight has on sleep. It is the classic ‘chicken or egg’ question.

So, what does the research say?

Well, it turns out that people are generally getting less sleep these days. In the West, we average about six-and-a-half hours, so it is possible that lack of sleep is contributing to our growing BMI figures.

If we take a look at the largest and longest study of 120,000 nurses, it shows that those who got less than five hours sleep were 2.5kg heavier and over the course of 16-years, they gained over a kilo more. These are significant but small differences; however, one big difference is the odds of gaining 15 kilos (almost 2 ½ stone) was one third higher in those who slept five hours or less. Other very large studies have also shown up to 40% increased risk of obesity in those sleeping less than five versus between six and seven hours per night.

Unfortunately, we can’t say for sure reduced sleep causes obesity, but there are some compelling facts:

  • Firstly, when people are deprived of sleep, their appetite increases, and they eat more food and more carbs. In an excellent study, in which people went 14 days with 5.5 hours sleep and then several weeks later, did another 14 days with 8.5 hours sleep, everything got worse in the sleep-restricted period. They burned less fat, fewer calories, lost less fat and lost more of their lean body mass.

  • Finally, if we look at the hormones that control appetite, ghrelin (which makes you hungry) goes up with sleep deprivation and some studies show that leptin (which lowers appetite) goes down.

So now we know the facts, how can we get a better night sleep?

  1. Routine – it is so important to make sure you are going to sleep and waking up at similar times every day. Try and get 6-9 hours’ sleep a night, so workout what time you need to be asleep to fulfil this timeframe.

  2. Have a warm bath before bed to relax your muscles ready for sleeping.

  3. Write a to-do list for the next day, knowing you have a plan for the next day will help you switch off for the evening and clear your mind.

  4. Avoid going on your phone or watching TV too close to your bedtime, as the blue light given off screens will have a negative effect on your sleep. Instead, try reading a book for 30 minutes before you’re planning on going to sleep.

  5. Listen to relaxing music whilst you’re dropping off to sleep, this will distract the mind and calm you.

  6. Purchase a sleep mask – these are great for a few reasons; they help to block out any light making it easier to drop off and stay asleep. A weighted sleep mask can add a light pressure for stress relief.

  7. Try to avoid eating late at night – plan when you are going to eat your products at reasonable times. Your Consultant will help you plan when is best to eat your meals and give you extra support in those moments of weakness!

  8. Losing weight – You are more likely to have trouble sleeping if you are overweight, therefore a way of improving your night’s sleep would be to shed the excess pounds. You can speak to a lovely Consultant today for some advice!

  9. Eat a healthy diet – ensuring you have less sugar, and a healthy diet means you’re more likely to sleep well. If you’re struggling to get on track with your diet, then take a look at how our six-step Plan, dedicated support and scrummy products can help you.