It’s a new year, and resolutions abound. It’s hard not to feel energized by this goal-setting spirit, which can make you eager to set your own resolutions. Perhaps you’ve been inspired to put goals in place to help you lose some weight and lead a healthier lifestyle all around. It might seem intuitive to work out more and eat a varied diet full of healthy foods to reach those fitness goals. And yes, those are great resolutions. But you could be overlooking one very important resolution: to get more sleep.
Sleep is often one of the last things people tend to think about when it comes to setting goals to help lose weight and become fitter, but it’s actually crucial for healthy living. Here are some shocking ways in which sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and hinder your fitness resolutions as well as solutions to these issues.
Your Stress Levels Will Skyrocket
If you regularly get less than seven hours of sleep per night, your body will produce increased amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone. The increased presence of cortisol sends your body into a catabolic state, encouraging muscle breakdown and fat storage, which won’t aid your weight-loss efforts.
“When our body is under stress, its priority is very clearly for us to survive,” says Christine Hansen, FDN-P, CSSC, nutritional therapist with Sleep Like a Boss. She explained that cortisol makes our bodies go into emergency mode, triggering processes to store fat so that we have reserves to draw on. And while this mechanism definitely has a purpose, it’s not especially helpful when you’re trying to shed a few pounds.
Cravings Will Intensify
Another unintended negative consequence that lack of sleep brings is a desire for food — the sugary kind, in particular. It’s necessary to get a good amount of sleep because it helps regulate your hunger hormones, ghrelin (which stimulates your appetite) and leptin (which diminishes appetite). Low ghrelin levels and high leptin levels are good for weight loss, but when you deprive yourself of sleep, the inverse of that happens: your ghrelin levels rapidly increase, causing you to feel hungry, and your leptin levels start to fall, which makes it hard to fight off the feelings of hunger.
Eating right is an essential part of any fitness regimen, so if you’re constantly battling cravings, you could be slowing down your weight-loss efforts.