Inadequate and erratic sleep is such an epidemic that it is now an entire branch of study with sleep clinics attending more to lifestyle illnesses related to poor sleep. Among lifestyle diseases and illnesses, it also adds to body fat and does not let us shed it as quickly as we would if we were getting enough sleep. So how much sleep is enough sleep? And how would you know if it’s right for you?
On a weekend when you really don’t have to get up for anything, in particular, keep all devices out of the bedroom. Phones, smartwatches, clocks, anything that tells time or can buzz or ring. Sleep at your usual time. And wake up only when you feel you are actually done with sleep. Then step outside and check how many hours you slept. Measure this for two nights. That is the actual amount of sleep your body needs.
While babies sleep the most, older people need lesser hours of sleep. Although sleep patterns vary, the average of 6-8 hours of sleep is necessary for the human body. How do you know you are getting enough sleep? If you have these following symptoms often, then you are getting enough sleep.
So how is not getting enough sleep making you fat?
Known as Sleep/Wake Cycle or circadian rhythm. The Circadian clock is what makes you feel hungry and sleepy at around the same time every day. The body’s natural tendency to do something at a certain time. It is influenced both by self-discipline and the body’s biology, which means that it can be corrected and that’s in your hands.
Sleep pattern is now easy to measure. Download any one of the popular apps and track yourself for a week. Sleep Cycle, Pillow are good ones that I use myself. But what is the connection between sufficient sleep and body fat?
You throw your circadian clock out of whack by sleeping late, sleeping less, too much screen time close to bedtime (the blue light of the screen reaches the brain through the eyes and prevents the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, thereby increasing alertness at sleep time), lack of exercise, poor nutrition and stress. You do this out of your own choices. The body then does not have a choice anymore but to work a lot more in lesser time of sleep creating more stress in the body. Poor sleeping for just one week adds 1 kilo to your body. Poor sleep also brings down the metabolism of the body. That is the body’s natural ability to burn calories. Lower metabolism means higher stored fat. Feeding your stomach food when it is in detox and maintenance period is sheer abuse. Lack of sleep is now linked to Type 2 diabetes due to increased inflammation in the body, poor digestion, brain fog, chronic fatigue, low immunity, low metabolism and of course piling on the pounds.
Simply not sleeping enough sends your body into a crisis. Since you aren’t giving it a chance to regulate, repair, detox and fix itself, it is similar to an overworked car engine where smoke starts emitting from under the hood. Yes, drama.
All this drama begins with two hormones. Ghrelin and Leptin. Ghrelin is the hungry hormone that increases and Leptin is the satiety hormone that decreases. To put it simply, you are constantly hungry and don’t feel full up. This leads you to have at least an extra 300-500 calories a day in order to feel like you have eaten fully. These two guys will mess with the brain (it’s fuzzy from all that not sleeping well), and nothing switches on when it’s supposed to and does not switch off when it is supposed to.
Plus, you end up eating high fat, high-calorie foods that your body starts to store as fat, especially if you are too tired and exhausted to exercise from sheer lack of sleep. Doesn’t sound too good, does it?
All of this over a period of time can lead to mental and physical disorders or illnesses.
When sleep-deprived, you are too tired to have any self-control. Of course, this does affect other areas where you need to exercise self-control such as addictions and eating balanced meals. But there is so much brain exhaustion that you literally have no will to exercise. Both figuratively and literally.
A bowl of ice cream is extremely tempting and there will be no moderation insight. Once you inhale that bowl, the next one will feel even more rewarding and the cycle continues. Since Leptin and Ghrelin are not being cooperative either, your hunger levels remain high and there is no feeling of fullness. You are lured by everything possibly fattening with no end in sight.
Sleep deprivation can create a state of lower metabolism. Metabolism is where your body burns calories when you are completely at rest. Various factors come into play here. There can be muscle loss (good muscle repair happens in good sleep only), higher storage of fat, poor exercise (you are too tired), along with higher calories foods all adds up to fat gain.
In a good sleep scenario, there is no hormone drama, you eat just enough, you reach out to healthier foods, your rested body rebuilds and repairs muscle, stored fat gets used in body activity, proteins get synthesized for repair, the metabolism remains high and well, you remain leaner and healthier overall!
Here are some healthy pointers for you to start sleeping well and support your body in losing that excess fat and be fitter.
Most of all, start to look forward to a good night’s sleep and being boastful about living life on less sleep isn’t smart. It’s plain dumb. If you have people around you that you need to do this with, maybe stop sharing this information all together so you can have the sound sleep you really need.
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