People sometimes try intense dieting or exercise programs to maintain a healthy weight, but one way to stay healthy requires much less work. Sleeping enough may be the missing part of your lifestyle. Can you imagine maintaining your health by staying in bed?
It’s a bit of reach to say that sleeping enough will pull off extra pounds. However, sleep deprivation does seem to change how your body processes foods. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may be easier if you get enough rest.
How Sleep Relates to Your Health
Scientists have consistently found a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. The CDC, which defines “short sleep” as less than seven hours per night, found that people that reported short sleep were more likely to be obese as well. In a British survey, over 1600 people were asked about their eating and sleeping habits. This study found that when people slept more, they tended to have healthier weight management.
The final conclusion of the study was one of the most interesting. The British study found no correlation between sleep duration and dietary measures. This finding implies that even if two people are eating the exact same foods, the one that sleeps more is more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Why Rest Has an Impact
An initial theory about why more sleep leads to a healthier weight was that sleep-deprived people tended to eat more and less healthily. At 3 AM, who craves carrots instead of a burger? Multiple studies have shown that sleep-deprived people tend to make less healthy food choices, such as buying more food and fattier foods than they would when they are well-rested. Scientists call this “upregulation” of appetite. When you’re tired, you feel hungry.
However, the association between sleep and food seems to be more complicated than hunger. Remember the British study? Even two people eating the same meals could be different weights if one slept more than the other. In addition to being hungrier, sleep-deprived people may have altered metabolisms, which may make it easier to pack on pounds. The simple solution? Worry less about what you're eating and sleep for your health.
How to Sleep Better
Sleeping a sufficient number of hours each night may require changes to your nightly routine. Perhaps you may need to head to bed an hour earlier than you usually do. However, it’s likely that you’ll lie awake until your regular bedtime on the first night. Your body aligns with the times that you usually sleep. If you go to bed at 11 PM and wake at 6 AM, your body starts making you feel sleepy around 11 PM. It takes a few days to adjust to an earlier time.
However, during the transition, starting a bedtime routine full of relaxing activities may help. Rather than working until you collapse, try reading in bed or meditating before drifting off. If you can stop eating a few hours before bed, do that. Trying to sleep while digesting can be challenging. If you must snack near bedtime, try a light meal like a protein powder shake with a banana.
Once you get yourself to bed, you should make sure you’re comfortable there. Your bedroom should signal “sleep time” to your brain. A dark and quiet room should send the right message. Block out distracting sunlight or nighttime light pollution with blackout curtains. You can also muffle distracting sounds with a white noise machine.
If you’re working to maintain a healthy lifestyle, don’t leave sleep out of the equation.
About the author:
Kaitlyn Kelley is a contributor at Tuck Sleep. She graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in 2012 with degrees in aerospace engineering and professional writing. Research is her passion, so Kaitlyn enjoys spreading the word about the science behind sleep health. She spends most weekends hiking the Cascades with her dog and boyfriend.