Forget willpower…to lose weight, sleep more
By Dr Michael Mosley
To lose weight, better sleep is the place to start
Trying to lose weight? Well, the key to a better body could be as simple as getting an extra hour of sleep every night, nutritionists have claimed. They believe that getting too little sleep alters our metabolism so our bodies cannot process food as effectively. An extra hour could help you to lose weight within weeks.
Karen Collins of the American Institute for Cancer Research, also claims late nights mean we snack more, and exercise less.
“We all know that when we’re tired, we reach for food first of all as a comfort thing,” said Ms Collins. “It now seems there is a biological basis for this, which we haven’t seen before.”
Hormone levels affected by sleep
Ms Collins believes changes in our hormone levels are caused by sleep deprivation. Her theory is based on research from Toyama University in Japan. There, researchers linked sleep deprivation in children with changes in the way the body processes sugar.
In the study of six-and seven-year-olds, children who slept nine to ten hours a night were compared to those who only slept eight to nine hours. The latter group was almost twice as likely to be overweight. Children sleeping less than eight hours a night were almost three times as likely to be overweight.
Ms Collins said: “One hormone, cortisol, regulates metabolism of sugar, protein, fat, minerals and water. Along with higher levels of resistance to insulin, which have also been spotted in the sleep-deprived, changes in levels of cortisol can lead to weight loss becoming much more difficult for those who don’t sleep properly. We are not saying that the weight will drop off if you get an extra hour’s sleep but I would expect to see changes within weeks rather than months.”
To lose weight, sleep to raise your leptin levels
Less sleep means more cortisol, which means weight gain. But cortisol is only part of the picture. Two hormones – leptin and ghrelin – work together to manage appetite. Leptin reduces hunger, while ghrelin promotes it.
Researchers at the University of Chicago monitored hormonal levels and appetite in a group of 11 subjects during two 6-day periods. During the first six days, the volunteers received four hours of sleep during the night; during the second six days, they were allowed to sleep for twelve hours.
Tests showed that sleep-deprived volunteers had 18% lower leptin levels and 28% higher ghrelin, associated with a 24% increase in self-reported hunger and a 23% increase in self-reported appetite. There was an overall increased preference for sweet, salty & starchy foods, with a 45% increase in salty food preference.
Better sleep: the foundation of healthier eating
As anyone who has tried to lose weight will testify, fighting a losing battle against your own willpower can be a dispiriting experience. Too often, diets leave people weighing even more than they did to begin with, as they struggle with constant hunger, cravings and loss of energy.
There is a better way. By getting enough sleep, your body will re-set its hormones to make better food choices. And this is just the start: with a high-fresh, low-carb diet, intermittent fasting, and exercise tailored specifically for the needs of those who want to lose weight, you can completely re-set your appetite. You won’t want to eat unhealthy food, and the weight that you lose won’t come back.
More and more, healthcare professionals are becoming aware of how successful, permanent weight loss depends on remodelling the underlying drivers of appetite. We have worked for years to bring science to the real-life experience of losing weight, through a combination of nutrient-rich and delicious low-carb recipes, fitness training and mindfulness coaching. For more tips on how to lose weight by working with your body, not against it, sign up to our newsletter for more information just like this sent directly to your inbox!