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Sleep and Weight Loss: Is There a Connection?


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December 23, 2022

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Lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise are intimately tied to how well you sleep at night.

What Is the Sleep Diet?

Asleep diet is more than just eating foods that make you feel sleepy; it’s an overall consistent habit of healthy sleep patterns and practices. Just as you would take care to eat lean proteins and vegetables on a food diet, it’s important to know what patterns you can create in your life that promote good, quality sleep.

There are also certain foods that you can take into consideration that do help your body to slip into a delicious, dreamy sleep and certain foods that make quality sleep seems impossible. Food containing tryptophan, a sleepy-feeling-inducing chemical, is a great choice, especially if you have been struggling with sleep.

Turkey, pumpkin seeds, and cherries are all foods containing tryptophan and this study shows how adults drinking 2 cups of cherry juice a day had a reduction in symptoms of insomnia. Complex carbs and eating foods that are low in fat and excess sugar and high in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D, are excellent places to start when creating a diet that will help you to sleep better.

Why Is This Diet Healthy?

A diet that takes optimal sleep into consideration is important because sleep is something that is absolutely essential to our health. We may eat extremely well and maintain a regular exercise routine covering cardio and weights, but if we aren’t sleeping well, moving through life may feel like a chore. If you eat an excess of foods containing a lot of sugar and saturated fats, it won’t just expand your waistline, but it will also kill your sleep at night, which is also something that will cause you to gain weight.

Poor sleep and poor eating habits is a vicious cycle that takes strength to release yourself from, and learning ways to break it is the first step.

How Dieting Can Cause Sleep Problems

If you are dieting, take special care to do your research and to pay attention to the specific needs of your body. Everyone is different and certain diets may affect some differently than others. If you are restricting yourself from certain foods, whether you are vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, practicing the paleo or ketogenic diet, it is important to be your own wellness advocate, and do your research. Some diets, such as the Atkins or ketogenic diet, are especially controversial because they advise that dieters restrict their intake of carbohydrates.

While results may be evident fairly quickly, long term carbohydrate restriction may lead to other health concerns, including insomnia. When carbohydrates are restricted, the body thinks that it is in a starved and hyper-stressed state, which may strain your liver because of the constant conversion of fats to sugar. As always, do your research and be your own best advocate for your wellness.

Connections Between Diet and Sleep

  • Eating too much or too little can disrupt sleep.

It may be tempting to eat a large, late dinner, and fall into bed with that sleepy satisfaction that often accompanies a big meal, but think twice before you do. Eating a large meal close to bedtime may cause some gastrointestinal distress that could making falling asleep difficult. Eating too little, on the other hand, may also leave you needing more sleep. If you’re distracted from hunger pangs in the middle of the night, sleep won’t come easily.

To ensure an optimal environment for sleep, eat a decent sized meal to satisfy your hunger 4 or 5 hours before bedtime and your sleep is likely to improve.

  • Alcohol and Caffeine can disturb sleep.

Though alcohol is a depressant and may help you fall asleep, it will destroy the quality of your sleep throughout the night, which is why it is important to have an alcohol curfew. If the alcoholic drink is sugary this just increases the likelihood that it will disrupt your sleep because your body has to work extra hard to process the sugar. Caffeine is an obvious sleep disrupter, and can stay in your system much longer than just the hour or so buzz you get from your morning cup of joe.

Set a caffeine curfew of 2pm or, if you are really sensitive, even earlier. If you are having difficulty sleeping, trying opting for a cold glass of water or decaffeinated tea in the morning instead. These options will hydrate you longer and won’t give you the same crash in the middle of the day.

  • Cut the fat.

Fatty foods have been shown to disrupt sleep and mess with your circadian rhythm (internal clock that regulate sleep and wake cycles). A study from Columbia University found a high correlation between a diet that is high in fiber and saturated fat may cause you to wake up more throughout the night and disrupt your sleep patterns.

  • Do not eat late at night.

Finishing your last meal 2 to 4 hours before bed is best. If you go to bed on a full stomach when your digestive system has just begun its process, your sleep can become disrupted by the activity happening in your stomach.

  • Drinking fluids too close to bedtime can cause problems.

Unwanted middle-of-the-night bathroom trips can really disrupt your sleep. To combat this, try to have a liquid curfew an hour or so before bed, and make sure to take a trip to the bathroom right before you tuck in for the night.

  • Milk and honey promote sleep.

Having a sweet, light snack such as milk mixed with a touch of honey may promote a night of deep rest, especially if done on the regular. Maintaining a positive, calming routine at night may help your sleep immensely.

  • Incorporate helpful herbs.

Herbs such as chamomile flower, valerian root, and lavender are naturally calming and can help to soothe your mind at bedtime. Both of these herbs can be made into tea, whether you make it yourself or find it in a grocery store. Roman chamomile and lavender essential oils are also perfect to sprinkle on your pillow or pajamas at night for some dreamy aromatherapy.

Sleep deprivation and weight gain

  • Poor sleep is a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity.

Studies have shown strong correlations between weight gain and poor sleep. This is due to multiple factors, including increased appetite with lack of sleep, increase in resting metabolism, as well as an increase in primary hormones involved in weight gain.

  • Poor Sleep Can Increase Your Appetite.

A few key hormones involved in weight gain are also triggering an increase in your appetite when you’re getting less sleep. Ghrelin is what signals to your brain that it’s time to eat and leptin is what tells you that you’re feeling full. When sleep deprived, ghrelin levels increase and leptin levels decrease, creating the perfect, overeating storm.

  • Poor Sleep May Decrease Your Resting Metabolism.

How well you sleep may affect your resting metabolic rate, research has found. An online article from Healthline explains that “your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the number of calories your body burns when you’re completely at rest. It’s affected by age, weight, height, sex and muscle mass.” When you’re not getting enough sleep, your RMR is lowered, meaning that you’re burning less calories than normal at a resting rate.

  • Sleep Can Enhance Physical Activity.

When you’re getting enough sleep, you’re energy levels are higher, and you feel way more motivated to move. If you are doing intense physical work and you’re coming off a day or two of poor sleep, chances are you’re not going to want to push yourself as far, or work out for as long. Get those zzz’s to make those reps come much more easily.

7 Ways Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight

  • Sleep Helps You Fight Cravings and Make Healthy Choices.

When you’re sleep deprived, activity in your frontal lobe, the part of your brain responsible for decision-making and self control, is dulled, making it much more difficult to pass up that bag of salty chips and the ice cream in the freezer. Getting enough sleep will help combat these issues, making it easier to choose healthy options.

  • Sleep Helps You Burn More Calories.

Because getting a good night of sleep helps to boost your immune system, your RMR (as mentioned above) heightens, meaning that you are burning more calories in the natural, resting state of your body.

  • Sleep Boosts Fat Loss.

When you aren’t getting enough sleep, cortisol in your body increases, which “signals your body to conserve energy to fuel your waking hours.” This means that you are hanging onto unnecessary fat from not getting an adequate amount of rest during. Get some sleep and lose some pounds. It’s that simple.

  • Sleep Encourages Portion Control.

Good sleep encourages the body to fight cravings and make healthy choices because the self-control and decision making part of the brain is more alert, and this is the same when it comes to portion control. You are less likely to go back for that second or third helping when you have been sleeping well because your brain is better at deciding when enough is enough.

  • Sleep Keeps Your Brain Focused.

This one seems pretty intuitive. It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you know what it feels like to suffer from the brain fog following nights of poor sleep. Well, the opposite is also true when you’re sleeping like a baby. We feel more alert, relaxed, and able to focus on the task at hand when we are sleeping well.

  • Sleep Helps Prevent Insulin Resistance.

Poor sleep is related to insulin resistance in the bloodstream, which is a precursor to diabetes and can cause your body to gain more weight along with other health complications. Getting enough sleep combats this issue by regulating insulin levels and clearing away toxins in the brain and body.

The Bottom Line

It’s no secret that sleep is an extremely important aspect in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s a vital part of our needs as humans, as vital as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Denying ourselves a full sleep life does more harm than many realize, especially those trying to lose some weight. The bottom line is, if you want to keep a healthy body, sleep needs to be a part of the diet equation.

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