When it comes to weight loss, most people will tell you that diet and exercise play an important role, but the importance of the link between regular, restful sleep and weight loss is often overlooked. The team behind a recent study is hoping that this will no longer be the case.  They have published their results which have shown that sleep deprivation has a considerable impact on the brain and the body, including in the area of weight.

Sleep and Weight Loss Are Heavily Connected

The research suggested that losing sleep causes people to eat more and, therefore, gain weight. This means that dieters who are hoping to lose weight – or maintain it once they’ve reached their goal – will only increase their challenge if they aren’t making certain that they are getting enough sleep every night. Conversely, by making sure that you are regularly well rested, you’ll make your weight management efforts notably easier.

Sleep is important enough that, according to the study, being deprived for even one night can result in pronounced changes in the response of the brain to junk foods that are high in calories.

During the days in which the participants did not have a good sleep, fatty and sugary foods created considerably stronger responses in one of the parts of the brain that produces the inclination to eat. Equally, the participants also experienced a notable decrease in the frontal cortex’s activity. That is one of the primary parts of the brain in which rational decisions are made, such as being able to weigh the consequences of eating certain foods to a dieting effort.

What Does This Mean for Your Dieting?

Therefore, when you don’t sleep well, you are not only more likely to want foods that are bad for your diet, such as those that are high in fats and sugars, but you will also be less likely to be able to talk yourself out of eating them through rational decision making. This is like a double whammy to your diet that will only make your efforts more challenging, particularly if it occurs on a regular basis.

According to one of the study’s authors, Matthew P. Walker, who is a University of California, Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience, when the brain is sleepy, it not only has a bigger response to junk food, but it has a lower level of impulse control. This makes the wrong foods more appealing, with less inclination to resist the temptation to eat them.

The lesson here is that if you are hoping to lose weight as quickly and easily as possible, value your sleep just as highly as your eating habits and activity level.

How to Get More Sleep for Better Weight Loss

Do you struggle to get sleep at night and are now wondering if your weight loss is doomed?  Don’t give up!  There are lots of things that you can do to improve your ability to get a restful sleep at night.  Here are a few that have considerable scientific backing.

  • See the light, then don’t – During the daytime, make sure you’re exposed to lots of full spectrum light, that is, daylight. Even if you work in an office without a window, use your lunch or break time to pop outside and give yourself as much light exposure as you can. This will energize you. Once your bedtime is approaching, use dim lighting to help wind yourself down again. Start dimming lights a couple of hours ahead of bedtime and turn off all screens (including your phone!) at least an hour before you want to be asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day – Even if you don’t have trouble falling asleep when you’ve had an after-dinner coffee, you’re causing more harm to your sleep than you realize. Having a stimulant within 5 hours of your bedtime can make your sleep more restless and therefore reduce its quality.  Since the quality of sleep and weight loss are linked, make sure you have caffeine during the first half of your day as opposed to the second.
  • Sleep on a regular schedule – Whether you take power naps, sleep only at night, or love to sleep in on the weekend, it’s time to set a bedtime and waking schedule and stick to it. This can include your power naps as long as they happen at the same time each day – even on weekends.  This will help your body to set its sleeping and waking clock. Over time, you will naturally come to feel tired at the same time(s) each day and will wake up and feel alert at the same times.  Many people who practice this technique find that they don’t even need an alarm clock anymore!

Want to learn more about the relationship between your resting habits and your body mass? Click to find the answer to the question: How Much Sleep Do You Need to Lose Weight Fast?