Why Sleep Is as Important for Weight Loss as Diet and Exercise


It might seem a little bit contradictory to read that sleeping will make you and the weighing scale good friends. After all, how many people drop pounds by closing their eyes and going off to dream land? Read on, and you might be surprised at what wonders sleep could do for you and your weight loss goals.

The exact mechanism of how sleep works, how it reenergizes the body and brain is still mind-boggling to the average person without a medical background. Sleep specialists and scientists do know for sure that adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning. In several studies and research, sleep has been identified as a critical factor in managing your health, weight, and energy level.

The Evidence

Numerous studies have been done to prove that there is a link between weight problems and lack of sleep. One study in Massachusetts examined the extent to which infant sleep duration is associated with overweight at age three years. The researchers found out that daily sleep duration of less than 12 hours during infancy appears to be a risk factor for overweight and adiposity in preschool-aged children.

A separate analysis was done by different researchers with participants consisting of 990 employed adults from a rural community in southeastern Iowa. Results were obtained after adjusting for pertinent factors such as sex, age, physical job demand, household income, depressive symptoms, and others. Self-reported sleep deprivation on weeknights was found to be negatively correlated with higher Body Mass Index (BMI).

Similarly, a 1999 study at the University of Chicago showed that sleeping a maximum of just four hours per night for a week drove healthy young adults to the point that some had the glucose and insulin characteristics of diabetics, despite eating well and exercising. Four hours may be a bit extreme but not uncommon in this fast-paced society and is a pattern deemed the “royal route to obesity” by Eve Van Cauter, PhD, who conducted the Chicago study.

Making Sleep, Exercise and Diet Work Together

Although studies show that exercise is definitely good for one’s health, one should properly time exercise to maximize its benefits. It would be counterproductive to do all your squats, sit-ups, and jumping jacks right before going to sleep because this can lead to a poor night of tossing and turning.

Exercising at least three hours before bedtime and in the late afternoon would give your body temperature enough time to drop to cooler levels so as to allow for sleep onset.

Unhealthy dietary choices also wreak havoc on our sleep patterns. Ever found yourself so sleepy that you had to gobble up candy bars or gulp down a cup of coffee? The quick dose of caffeine might just raise your energy levels so high that you find yourself unable to sleep at night, and behold, the cycle commences. In the meantime, you’re not getting enough sleep and your sugar intake skyrockets as a result of those coffee cups and candy bars. It’s best to substitute with a healthy snack of carrots or granola bars.

The Bottom Line

Health is complex and affected by various body systems. Though diet and exercise are essential to keep us healthy, sleep should never be overlooked since it is tied to our food intake, how we exercise, and whether or not we shed those pounds. The right balance will go a long way towards helping us achieve our goal of fitness and good health.


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