April 21st 2018

Want to lose weight? Go to sleep.

Here’s a fun fact. If you’re not getting enough sleep and already running on empty, mainlining Starbucks and Cokes, you might also be increasing your waistline. Awesome. Just when you thought being sleep deprived couldn’t make you feel any worse – know this – it’s just not true that sleeping less will help you stay thin.

We get it. If you spend more hours on your feet and fewer on your back, you must be clocking up more steps on that fitness tracker, which means more calories burned, and soon you’re down another dress size. Except. It goes more like this – too tired to get from your 9 am meeting to your 11 am meeting, you talk yourself into a doughnut to give you a quick sugar boost. That pulls you through to the end of the day, when you can’t even think about going to the gym. Then you decide that cooking is for people who get real sleep – you’ll pick up take out.

But wait – there’s more.

Those are just the fattening risks of compensating for not enough sleep by eating to stay awake. The other problem is that you’re missing out on the weight loss and weight maintenance magic that happens when you do get sleep. So you’re getting the short end of the stick at both ends. Here’s how:

Less sleep, more cortisol. You’ve probably become familiar with that dirty word cortisol, which gets poked at for causing midriff maximization. When you don’t sleep enough, your body’s cortisol levels tend to rise, suppressing your body’s ability to know when it’s full. So you end up eating more than you need to.

Metabolism mayhem. Sleep loss also disrupts your metabolism, making it harder for your body to burn fat. So sleeping can actually help burn calories. Say it ain’t so? Can’t. Sleep won’t make up for skipping the gym, but sleep can make those gym sessions fully pay off by keeping your calorie burn rate higher.

Poor sleep, poor judgment. And there are multiple studies that confirm that less sleep leads to reduced cognitive abilities, including judgment. Remember that morning doughnut that made so much sense? Yeah, that’s your sleep deprived logic in charge. And a recent study at University of Chicago has identified a chemical called 2-AG as another culprit – when you are sleep deprived, your 2-AG levels go up – and they heighten the pleasure of sweet, salty and high-fat foods, in particular.

Step away from the refrigerator. Even simpler than all the chemical reactions you’re setting off, consider this. It’s impossible to chew and snore at the same time. If you aren’t up half the night, it’s hard to snack half the night. The American Heart Association did a study that those who don’t get enough sleep eat as much as 500 more calories per day, than those who did. Done and done.

Maybe instead of taping up a picture of that bikini on the refrigerator, you should set it next to the alarm clock. Food for thought.