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The Link Between Sleep and Weight Loss

We have all heard how important it is to get sleep. Children are supposed to get 8-9 hours each night and adults about 7-8. That sleep helps heal the body, refresh the mind, provide emotional balance, and boost energy levels. But one item often forgotten in the beneficial effects of sleep is that it helps with metabolism. It gets overlooked because it is not as widely known and because it was not a staple of sleep studies conducted in the past. In fact, the notion that sleep and weight loss are correlated is a rather recent finding.

Sleep Debt

When you miss out on the amount of sleep you are accustomed to getting or falling short of the recommended amount of sleep, you accumulate sleep debt. These are hours that you should have been sleeping that are now lost to you. Many people believe that they can regain those lost hours and make up their sleep debt by catching up on the weekend or some other time. While this is a commonly-held notion, it is quite wrong.

Medical experts have long understood that lost sleep cannot be regained. Your body may feel less tired after getting additional sleep to “catch back up”, but that loss of sleep has likely already taken its toll. Research from a study conducted by the Weill Cornell Medical College showed that people who lost sleep throughout the week actually managed to gain more weight than those who got their full night’s sleep.

The study was conducted over six months, and in that time the difference between the two groups of participants was alarming. The people who were missing just a little sleep each night were 72% more likely to become obese than those who were getting enough sleep. That is how much of an effect sleep deprivation was having on people involved in the study.

And it all boils down to the metabolism. There are many factors that contribute to how well someone’s metabolism works. These can include their age, their physical activity levels, their gender, their diet and others. But sleep plays a large part in that as well. Sleep helps regulate the systems of the body and return them to normal. If your body is suffering from a lack of sleep, then your metabolism is going to take a dive because of it.

Does Sleep Affect Obesity?

It certainly can! Now researchers already knew before this study that sleep deprivation could lead to obesity and other metabolic problems. But they did not know how little sleep debt would negatively affect metabolism. The study showed that as little as half an hour in a week can make a difference. That may not be a huge difference, but it is enough that most people should be trying to do something about it. So the reverse is also possible, to get enough sleep and weight loss will occur.

What you can do is attempt to regulate your sleep as much as possible. Try to go the bed at the same time each night. You should also try to get some physical activity in every day. Otherwise, you may not be tired enough to fall asleep at the accustomed time. You can also give yourself some extra time in the morning. Perhaps the night before you didn’t fall asleep very quickly because you were preoccupied or not tired. If you plan to wake up about an hour before you really need to, then you can use that extra time to get the sleep you missed out on. Remember that the difference between a healthy metabolism and an unhealthy one can be as little as half an hour of missed sleep.

But it is not just adults that are affected by a lack of sleep. Studies have shown that children who suffer from sleep deprivation and breathing problems that lead to lack of sleep are as much as twice as likely to be obese than their peers. The numbers relating sleep debt to obesity are astounding, and anyone who wants to get control of their weight gain would do very well to start with their sleeping habits. It is easy enough to know where you stand in relation to good sleeping habits, as everyone of a particular age group requires the same amount of sleep.

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