Good weight loss programs have many components. One often neglected area is sleep. Many people don’t realize that there is a biological link between inadequate sleep and weight gain. To good news is that new research demonstrates that night owls who skimp on sleep can change their sleep cycles

Good Weight Loss Programs Promote Sleep

Adequate sleep is a critical component of good weight loss programs.

Insufficient sleep affects appetite and satiety hormones as well as fat cells, according to the nation’s top sleep experts. If you want to lose weight, be sure to get enough sleep.

Weight Loss and Sleep

There is now significant scientific evidence that an important component to weight control is avoiding sleep deprivation.

Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago, has spent 15 years studying this topic. Based on her research, she has concluded that “There is no doubt that insufficient sleep promotes hunger and appetite, which can cause excessive food intake resulting in weight gain. Sleep deprivation probably affects every process in the body. Our body is not wired for sleep deprivation. The human is the only mammal that does this.”

This research and other comparable studies help explain why so many people who are chronically sleep-deprived also are overweight. It may also explain the reason sleepy college students, new parents and shift workers pack on pounds.

Studies have shown that when people don’t get enough sleep they:

  • Have increased levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreased levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.
  • Consume about 300 calories a day more than when they are well-rested. Overall, most of the extra calories came from high-fat foods.
  • Snack more and do less physical activity.
  • Eat more than what is needed to cover the energy cost of staying awake longer, especially at night.
  • Sleep deprivation causes people to consume more carbohydrates because when people are sleepy, they make poor food choices and are more likely to eat more than they need.

Good Weight Loss Programs May Need to Adjust Circadian Rhythms

Many night owls are sleep deprived and could benefit from good weight loss programs that assist with better sleep.

‘Night owls’ are people whose internal body clock dictates later-than-usual sleep and wake times.  “Having a late sleep pattern puts you at odds with the standard societal days, which can lead to a range of adverse outcomes — from daytime sleepiness to poorer mental wellbeing,” study co-author Dr Andrew Bagshaw from the University of Birmingham said.

Good Weight Loss Programs Change Sleep Patterns

New international research by the Universities of Birmingham and Surrey in the UK, and Monash University in Australia, showed that, over a three-week period, it was possible to shift the circadian rhythm of ‘night owls’ using non-pharmacological and practical interventions.

Sleep Change Study

The sleep change study, recently published in Sleep Medicine, showed that participants were able to bring forward their sleep/wake timings by two hours, while having no negative effect on sleep duration. In addition, participants reported a decrease in feelings of depression and stress, as well as in daytime sleepiness.

Lead researcher Dr Elise Facer-Childs from Monash University’s Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, concluded that “Our research findings highlight the ability of a simple non-pharmacological intervention to phase advance ‘night owls’, reduce negative elements of mental health and sleepiness, as well as manipulate peak performance times in the real world.”

  • Twenty-two healthy individuals participated in the study.
  • Participants had an average bedtime of 2.30am and wake-up time of 10.15am.
  • For a period of three weeks participants in the experimental group were asked to:
  • Go to bed 2-3 hours before habitual bedtime and limit light exposure in the evening.
  • Keep sleep/wake times fixed on both work days and free days.
  • Have breakfast as soon as possible after waking up, eat lunch at the same time each day, and refrain from eating dinner after 7pm.
  • Wake up 2-3 hours before regular wake up time and maximize outdoor light during the mornings.

Sleep Study Results

The results highlighted an increase in cognitive (reaction time) and physical (grip strength) performance during the morning. They also shifted their peak performance times from evening to afternoon. They also increased the number of days they ate breakfast, which led to better mental well-being. Many studies show that eating breakfast helps with weight loss.

Although the study did not focus on weight loss, most of the participants probably got more sleep and that alone promotes weight loss.

According to Professor Debra Skene from the University of Surrey, “Establishing simple routines could help ‘night owls’ adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health. Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.”

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