“Studies repeatedly show a link between a lack of sleep and an increase in weight,” reveals Sophie Suri, a doctoral researcher in sleep medicine at Teesside University. “And sleep deprivation doesn’t just kill your desire to work out – it results in metabolic and endocrine alterations that can increase hunger, promote fat storage and initiate the breakdown of lean muscle.”
Here’s how a late night affects your weight and how to undo the damage:
YOU’VE HAD: No sleep
If the sun is rising and you still haven’t slept a wink, prepare for an epic case of the munchies. Data from Uppsala University in Sweden states that missing one night’s sleep creates the ‘perfect storm’ of hunger and impulsiveness that makes tired bodies crave high-calorie treats.
Fix it: One study shows a short afternoon nap restores cognitive performance, but more than 30 minutes may damage productivity. So go on and have a nap!
YOU’VE HAD: 4 hours of sleep
Unfortunately, one study shows skimping on sleep hampers exercise plans. In fact, after two nights of clocking four hours’ sleep, subjects did ‘significantly lower activity’ than those who had twice as much rest. “The deeper stages of sleep are particularly important for exercise recovery due to the hormones released,” adds Suri.
Fix it: Feeling sleepy isn’t a reason to avoid the gym. In fact, exercise will burn calories and help you sleep better.
YOU’VE HAD: 5 hours of sleep
While five hours may seem like a moderate amount of sleep, research by the University of Chicago confirms even minimal sleep loss affects how much weight your body loses as fat. The researchers studied 10 overweight people in two 14-day intervals – one in which they had 7,5 hours sleep and the other one 5,5 hours. During both phases the participants lost an average of 2,9kg. However, during the well-rested weeks, they lost one of those kilograms from fat and, during the short-sleep fortnight, they lost 0,5 of those kilos as fat
Fix it: Take a magnesium supplement or lie in a magnesium-filled Epsom salts bath before bedtime to help you drift off.
HAD: 6 hours of sleep
If your definition of a good night’s sleep is six hours of slumber, you’re what experts call a ‘short sleeper’ [those who clock five and a half to six hours’ sleep] and you’re at risk of weight gain. In a 16-year study, American researchers found women who reported having six hours’ sleep a night were 12% more likely to gain weight and six per cent more likely to become obese than those who snoozed for seven hours. “Cortisol is catabolic breaks down muscle tissue,” explains Suri. “It also disrupts thyroid function, which regulates your metabolic rate and weight control.”
Fix it: Reset your body clock with a light box [available at online health shops nationwide]. The sunlight-simulating light will help synchronise your heart and breathing rhythms for better sleep. Here’s to a sleepier and slimmer you!