A commitment to weight loss should go hand in hand with an increase in sleep, according to Michael Thorpy, MD, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Sleep loss is associated with striking alterations in hormone levels that regulate the appetite and may be a contributing factor to obesity." said Thorpy.
Specifically, sleep loss has been shown to affect the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that regulates appetite. As a result, individuals who lose sleep may continue to feel hungry despite adequate food intake. Additionally, lack of sleep may interfere with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and cause high blood levels of glucose. Excess glucose promotes the overproduction of insulin, which can promote the storage of body fat.
But, it's not just getting sleep that's important; it's the kind of sleep you're getting. For example, decreased amounts of restorative deep or slow-wave sleep ( non-REM sleep) have been associated with significantly reduced levels of growth hormone 1 --a protein that helps regulate the body's proportions of fat and muscle during adulthood.
"Sleep loss disrupts a complex and interwoven series of metabolic and hormonal processes and may be a contributing factor to obesity," said John Winkelman, MD, PhD, medical director of the Sleep Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "What most people do not realize is that better sleep habits may a be instrumental to the success of any weight management plan."
Unfortunately, many of us are not taking advantage of this snuggly weight-regulation technique. According to the National Sleep Foundation, in the past eight years, the number of Americans who sleep less than six hours a night jumped from 13% to 20%, and those who reportedsleeping eight hours or more dropped from 38% to 28%. Two out of every ten Americans sleep less than six hours a night. People sleeping too few hours report being too tired to work efficiently, to exercise or to eat healthy.
If you have trouble sleeping for more than a few weeks, or if sleep problems interfere with daily functioning, speak with your doctor.