If you’re eating right and exercising, but still struggling to lose weight, you might be missing an important part of the equation: sleep! Recent studies have shown that getting too little sleep can make it difficult to lose weight and can even cause further weight gain. The average adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep per night, but, as these infographics show, many Americans are falling short. If your weight loss routine isn’t giving you the results you’re looking for, improving your sleep can help in these key areas:
Getting too little sleep can leave your body looking for any energy boost it can get. That can lead to cravings for sugary, high-calorie foods. Refined sugars offer a quick pick-me-up, but because they’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream, your body stores some of this energy as fat to help regulate your blood sugar. Limit these cravings by making sure you’re recharging with sleep instead.
Hunger is regulated by two hormones, ghrelin and leptin. As with many hormones, sleep plays an important role in keeping ghrelin and leptin (and therefore your appetite) in check. Too little sleep has been associated with an imbalance in these “hunger hormones,” which stimulates your appetite and makes you feel hungrier even when you’ve eaten.
Make Exercise Easier
At the end of a long day, the last thing you want to do is head to the gym for a workout, even though you know physical activity is key to managing your weight. Being sleep deprived and over-tired makes it even harder to stick to your resolve to exercise. There is good news, however. Exercise and sleep are mutually beneficial; if you have a hard time sleeping, exercise can help you get a good night’s rest, which in turn has you ready to a workout the next day.
There’s no magic bullet to weight loss. Simply getting your full eight hours a night isn’t going to melt away the weight you’re hoping to lose, but it can make the process easier. With seven to eight hours of sleep each night, you’ll be better able to stick to healthy habits and start meeting your weight-loss goals.