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You Snooze, You Win | Muscle & Body Magazine

Man sleeping

Not getting a good night’s sleep could jeopardize your physique goals.

A good night’s sleep is often the key to an energized next day, recovery from a diligent workout, and our general well-being. However, recent research has shown that a good night’s sleep also means the less likelihood of gaining weight in the form of added body fat.

In a recent article reported by Tara Parker- Pope in The New York Times, sleep cycles were evaluated by a group of researchers trying to determine the effects on the body—particularly of weight gain—when sleep deprived. It was found that “adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are at higher risk of being overweight.”

Anyone trying to lose weight should take note that a routine as simple as getting into bed earlier may potentially assist your progress in reaching your ideal physique. Recent research confirms the importance of sleeping seven to nine hours per night.

Cramming Calories

A new study based out of the University of Colorado “recruited 16 healthy men and women for a two-week experiment tracking sleep, metabolism and eating habits.” Monitoring inadequate sleep cycles of these test subjects for a one-week period was compared to what might occur when “students cram for exams or when office workers stay up late to meet a looming deadline.”

Interestingly, for the first week, subjects who were restricted to only five hours of sleep actually increased their metabolism, thus allowing them to burn more calories.

Contain your excitement, you sleep-deprived procrastinators of all-night studying. These same subjects, despite their increased metabolism, eventually gained weight because they consumed far more calories, especially after dinner. Individuals with a lack of sleep were more likely to consume “6% more calories” during the day. Heavy carbohydrate intake was also noted among individuals who participated in the study.

For example, sleep-deprived subjects were less likely to consume a large breakfast, saving most of their carbohydrate intake for the evening hours, which is a big mistake of you’re trying to lose weight. Nighttime is a terrible time to consume carbs, as the body is more likely to store them for energy in the morning hours.

Remember, you are literally breaking your fast (break/fast) when you eat in the morning, so carbohydrate intake will support the body’s energy production when consumed earlier in the day. Carbohydrates metabolize to glucose (sugar) and are stored as glycogen. When carbohydrates are eaten in excess (i.e., above the body’s storage capacity) they are stored in the form of fat, which translates to fat gain.

Hormones In Chaos

According to The New York Times, “Last fall, The Annals of Internal Medicine reported…that lack of sleep alters the biology of fat cells. After four nights of less sleep (4.5 hours a night), [subjects’] fats cells were less sensitive to insulin, a metabolic change associated with both diabetes and obesity.”

Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, concluded, “Metabolically, lack of sleep aged fat cells about 20 years.”

Another factor to consider as to why sleep-deprived individuals are likelier to consume more calories is due to overactive hormones. Have you ever felt famished the day after you’ve been up all night? This could be the result of unstable levels of leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that regulates energy balance, as well as controls the appetite and metabolism, while ghrelin is the hormone that regulates hunger and an individual’s apparent “fullness” after a meal.

Lack of sleep lowers leptin levels, therefore, increased appetite is more likely. Ghrelin, on the other hand, causes you to consume more calories in hopes of creating fullness in the stomach. You can see how these two hormones can actually work against you when you’re sleep deprived.

Some nutritional options may help alleviate the symptoms of restlessness at night. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain, and is responsible for helping your body fall into a sleep state. Its production increases in the evening when it is dark, and decreases during the day when it is light.

If you bring a computer to bed, or if you’ve gotten too little sunlight during the day, you may have a tougher time falling asleep. This could be due to disrupted production of melatonin.

Leave your computer out of the bed, and get sunlight during the day. If necessary, head to a GNC store for a melatonin supplement. However, it is important to talk with your physician prior to taking melatonin.

Theanine If stress is keeping you awake, ask your physician if supplementing with theanine might alleviate the problem. This amino acid may act as a stress reducer due to its absorption rate in the brain. Theanine is known to help people achieve a state of mental clarity, and it won’t keep you up at night. Again, be sure to consult a physician if you are considering adding any supplement to your diet, and seek medical help if your sleeplessness persists, as this may be due to a number of health concerns.