Could how much you weigh be related to how well you sleep? Could you actually sleep yourself slim? A heap of scientists seem to think so.
Research has shown that those who sleep more have lower body fat, lower BMIs and trimmer tummies. Wanting to take it a step further, doctors asked volunteers to limit their sleep to 5 hours a night. They were also given unlimited access to snacks throughout the day. The average person gained almost 1 kg of weight in a week.
The study seems to indicate that tiredness equals tubbiness. Poor sleep causes a rise in the hunger hormone ghrelin which increases appetite. It also decreases levels of hormones that make us feel full (especially in women).
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When we’re tired, the parts of our brain that control food choices work differently: the frontal lobe that helps us make good decisions doesn’t work as well, while the parts of the brain that are rewarded by things like food are more active, making high fat, high sugar foods harder to resist.
But what if you often don’t sleep well? Are those of us who toss and turn doomed to our fat jeans forever? In a word, no… but you do need to bear in mind the impact that lack of sleep can have, and account for that in the way you act the next day.
Weight-loss consultant Dr Sally Norton says, ‘If you’ve had a bad night’s sleep or if you’ve had too little sleep, try to limit stress that day, as stress and tiredness combined is a disaster when it comes to eating.’
You should eat to sustain your energy levels, not make them worse. Start the day with a high protein breakfast, which will fill you up and help you stay fuller for longer; avoid refined carbs and sugary foods that trigger blood sugar lows – if you do need a sweet treat, Dr Norton suggests reaching for fruit.
It’s important to note that a good night’s sleep is only one factor that should be prioritised in a healthy lifestyle – there are eating habits and fitness routines, too. For best weight loss results, try to do better in all three areas – food, fitness AND sleep.
Read more: Top tips for better sleep
3 ways to sleep yourself slim
While any sleep is good sleep, studies are now pinpointing ways you can maximise the results. Here’s what to aim for:
Form a routine
Experts agree that you should stick to a schedule to ensure you get your 8 hours of sleep. Ideally, sleep more than 6.5 hours and less than 8.5 hours every night – that’s what the slimmest people do. And then stick to your new schedule – sadly, weekend lie-ins won’t make up for poor sleep during the week. Trials show that those who went to bed and got up at roughly the same time each day had the lowest levels of body fat.
Turn off the gadgets
Turn off devices at least an hour before bedtime and that includes the TV – this will help you fall asleep faster and you should experience a deeper sleep, too. Studies found that even when people slept the same amount, those who slept the deepest weighed the least. The light from screens interferes with the hormone melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle.
Get up and go
Studies have shown that people who are exposed to sunlight first thing in the morning tend to have a lower Body Mass Index than those who aren’t. It may be because morning sunlight revs up your metabolism. So go for a quick walk or, at the very least, try to eat your breakfast next to a window.