By the time you reach 90 years of age, you will have spent 32 years of your life in sleep. That’s 1/3 of your life spent getting shut eye. Most of us understand that sleep is important but most of us probably don’t know what goes on in the body during the time we spend in the sleepy dew of slumber.
Sleep is important for your brain. Consider the fact that the brain accounts for only 2% of the body’s mass yet it uses up to 25% of the body’s energy. Clearly, it takes energy to think and make sure all of the body’s systems are fully operational. Not only does the brain demand a quarter of your body’s energy supply but it also requires sleep. Unlike the rest of the body, the brain has no lymphatic system by which waste can be removed. This means that in order to get rid of waste, the cerebral spinal fluid surrounding the brain has to collect the waste and remove it. But this only happens during sleep. That’s right, sleep serves as the only time when waste is removed from the brain. Falling behind on sleep means waste remains in your brain and as a result, your ability to think is impaired. Therefore, sleep and a lack thereof, can have detrimental impacts on your brain’s ability to function.
Sleep, the Brain, and Weight Loss
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably reading it because you want to lose weight and better understand the relationship between sleep and weight loss. So you may be thinking, “Why should I care that sleep hurts my brain? I mean yeah, it’s important for me to be able to think clearly but how does this knowledge help me lose weight?” Understanding that a lack of sleep negatively impacts the brain is imperative for weight loss because the brain controls every process in your body. If it can’t effectively control your body’s processes, then how can you effectively lose weight?
For the brain, sleep helps with memory and reinforces the new skills that you learn. This pertains to weight loss because getting enough sleep helps you solidify the new posture you learned during yoga class today. As a result, you master the skill more effectively and build up the muscle memory required to perform said skill faster.But a lack of sleep does more than just impact your ability to learn a new muscle movement. When you lack sleep, your body’s ability to produce energy during exercise is impaired. This leads to fatigue, low energy, and poor focus. As a result, you are less likely to go to the gym and even if you manage to muster up the energy to get yourself there, you’ll be less effective during your workout because you’ll be incapable of exerting maximal energy which means fewer calories burned.
Sleep and Hormonal Balance
The relationship between sleep and weight loss goes deeper than this, however. As mentioned in the article, 5 Habits that Hurt Weight Loss, not getting enough sleep changes the hormonal balance of your body. When you don’t get enough sleep, the levels of leptin in the body, which is the appetite suppressing hormone, go down. In turn, the levels of ghrelin, appetite stimulating hormone, go up. This means you actually eat more when you don’t get enough sleep. Furthermore, lack of sleep increases the levels of cortisol in your body, a stress hormone that causes the body’s metabolism to slow down. When cortisol levels increase, excess weight is harder to lose, protein is broken down thereby inhibiting muscle building, and excess glucose is more likely to be stored as fat.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
So how do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? Well, you need more sleep if:
- You need an alarm clock to wake up each morning.
- You need multiple triggers to get up in the morning.
- You are grumpy, irritable or moody in the morning.
- Your friends and family tell you that you look tired.
The struggle to lose weight is real and unfortunately, not getting enough sleep can make weight loss even harder. For the best quality sleep, make sure you go to bed in a:
Sleep in a room dark enough so that light doesn’t come into the room but not so dark that you stub your toe getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
A cooler room is better for sleep than a warmer room. Keep extra blankets on hand so that you can add layers if you feel too cold.
Sleep in a quiet room. Noise is the most disruptive factor intruding peoples’ sleep. Noises like the barking dog or the banging door can be easily masked with a fan or sound machine.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress. Sleeping on an uncomfortable surface can have a big impact on sleep quality.