Getting adequate sleep is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. Not only can getting enough quality sleep each night help you stave off chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but it can also help those with depression manage their symptoms.
There’s also a relationship between sleep and overeating. Research indicates that insufficient sleep could lead to weight gain. To better explain the science behind this connection, we consulted Nicole Avena, Ph.D., and Nature Made Wellness Ambassador. She also provides four helpful tips on how you can get better sleep each night.
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What is the #1 reason someone may be gaining weight based on their sleep schedule?
“Gaining weight has been linked to lack of sleep, which is linked to a higher calorie intake,” says Avena. “Your internal clock is not aligned with your appetite and metabolism when food is consumed at odd hours.”
In addition, she adds that the duration in which you sleep can affect the production of two key, hunger-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
“Research has shown that sleep deprivation alters the production of leptin and ghrelin, [which] regulate appetite and hunger,” she says. “Sleep deprivation has also been linked to growth hormone deficiency and elevated levels of cortisol—both of these increases have been linked to obesity.”
Not to mention, those who get less sleep are less likely to exercise, Avena explains, which can also contribute to weight gain. Those who are routinely sleep-deprived are also more likely to choose foods that aren’t as healthy and high in calories when hunger strikes.
There are four ways you can improve your sleep and help you keep your weight in check.
“Having a lot of snacks before bed could reduce your progress of weight gain by adding on a lot of unnecessary calories,” says Avena.
Try and enjoy your last meal three hours before you intend on going to bed to allow enough time for proper digestion to occur and avoid bouts of insomnia.
“It’s important to stick to a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up,” she says. “This is because fluctuations in your schedule could lead to insulin sensitivity and metabolism changes.“
“Chronic stress could lead to poor sleep and weight gain, as your body is not functioning in the healthiest way,” says Avena. “Try finding ways to calm yourself down so your body is not inclined to stress eat or take part in unhealthy activities.”
Research has shown that regularly engaging in meditation practice may reduce your stress levels. One 2018 study showed that participating in just 13-minutes of meditation a day over the course of eight weeks improved participants’ mood and memory, enhanced attention, and decreased anxiety.
Avena says there are plenty of supplements, such as melatonin, that can help your body relax before your head hits the pillow.
“For example, Nature Made Sleep Longer combines melatonin with amino acids to help calm your mind for better sleep,” she says.
For more sleep tips, be sure to read The One Diet Change You’ll Make After Better Sleep, New Study Suggests. Then, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter.