If you're trying to shed a few unwanted pounds in time for summer, you may be sabotaging yourself without realizing it.
Scientists have now discovered that a shortage of sleep can make you gain weight, regardless of what you eat and how much you exercise.
They have found a strong link between the amount of sleep a person gets and his/her levels of the appetite-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin. By way of explanation, ghrelin gets secreted by your stomach when you're hungry. And leptin is a hormone that does the opposite; it tells your brain that you're full.
With this in mind, medical research has exposed a cruel joke that Mother Nature likes to play on us. Essentially, sleep deprivation caused volunteers in a university study to experience continued production of ghrelin, even when they'd had enough to eat.
Even minor sleep loss over as little as two consecutive days can trick your brain into thinking your body needs more food.
At the same time, their cumulative fatigue caused them to exhibit low levels of leptin in their blood. The end result was that they were over-eating due to the malfunctioning of the brain circuitry controlling their appetites.
This means that if you're not sleeping enough, then you may well be eating too much without realizing it.
Worse still, you're probably craving junk foods, too. In fact, if you're severely sleep deprived, your appetite for salty, sweet, or starchy/fatty foods can almost double, according to Michael Breus, Ph.D -- who studies sleep deprivation and is the author of a book entitled Beauty Sleep.
Even minor sleep loss over as little as two consecutive days can trick your brain into thinking your body needs more food. So it's essential for you to get sufficient sleep each and every night (or at least as often as possible).
But keep in mind that there's no way of getting around this biological necessity. You simply can't stockpile sleep on the weekends to compensate for short-changing yourself on subsequent week nights. Medical science proved a long time ago that this doesn't work. Your body knows this to be the case, too.
Finally, it cannot be over-stated that you need at least eight hours of deep sleep each night if you're serious about getting (or staying) slim and sexy. And if you want to go one step further by sculpting shredded abs, then that's all the more reason to spend a sufficient length of time in bed.
Also, if eight hours doesn't feel restful enough, then go to bed an hour earlier and get a full nine hours of slumber. But don't make the mistake of feeling guilty about it. Just do it! Consider it to be an extension of your fitness regime -- if that's what it takes for you to smarten-up about getting great results.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Falling asleep is a mind game. According to a 2003 study by University of Glasgow researchers, instead of lying in bed trying to fall asleep, lie in bed and try to stay awake. Forcing yourself to stay awake is exhausting and will therefore put you to sleep faster. But if that doesn’t work within 20 minutes, get out of bed, says Bustle. Staying in bed longer than that increases anxiety around not being able to fall asleep, which reinforces not being able to fall asleep. Go back to bed when you feel tired.
The blue light of computers, phones and tablets can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daylight outside. This in turn messes with your body’s rhythm and signals the brain to suppress melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that basically sets your body in motion for sleep. The only technological interactions you should have on your bed in relation to sleep is a sleep tracker, if you want.
Increasing the intensity of your workout, or working out close to the end of the day could be affecting your sleep. High-intensity workouts could be causing acute fatigue in your muscles. And working out close to your bedtime could leave you feeling too wired and amped up to get to rest. Take note of your body - if you find yourself feeling more irritable or not feeling rested, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Sometimes you get the nighttime munchies and that’s okay — as long as you’re eating the right things (like cherries, milk or a protein). In fact, a pre-bedtime snack could stabilize your blood sugar and help you feel more rested as a result. But if you’re craving something sweet, salty or high-fat, you’re probably just sleepy. Also, avoid taking vitamins before bed because they could give you a little boost of energy.
Set a night routine and stick to it. This will train your brain to recognize each step as triggers for falling asleep, according to The Huffington Post U.S. Whatever it includes, be it brushing your teeth, washing your face or taking a shower, each step should be consistent every night. Things like preparing for the next day in terms of clothes and meals should be done well before the bedtime routine starts.
Take a few moments for quiet reflection. This can be as simple as thinking out the highs and lows of the day or some meditation but winding down your brain is important to releasing the stresses of the day and
Studies show that keeping a cool (about 18 degrees) and dark room is good for you and your sleep. Banish everything from your room that you can that isn't related to sleeping. Per HuffPost U.S., make your bed as inviting as possible, which means making your bed every morning and washing sheets every couple of weeks. Who doesn't love extra pillows too?
If you’re an eight hour-a-nighter, a five hour-a-nighter or a segmented sleeper find a sleep schedule that works for your body and your life. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Once you've found your routine, stick to it and hold yourself accountable. Sleep is a vital part of good health and well-being, and you deserve it all.
Follow Marc Davis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/https://twitter