You're eating right. You're exercising. But you're still not losing any weight? Or maybe you're gaining weight. Well, that's because it's more than just diet and exercise that affects your weight.
You might have heard that people who sleep more than eight hours a night lose about 50% more fat than those who sleep for just five and a half. Well, it turns out that's actually true. Which is bad news for anyone who holds the "I'll sleep when I'm dead attitude".
"Sleep can absolutely sabotage or safeguard weight loss or weight management efforts," says sleep specialist and sleep coach Olivia Arezzolo.
We've previously spoken to Olivia about how sleep affects burn out. And as it turns out, bad sleep is making us fat too. Here Olivia explains why.
Featured image: Olivia Arezzolo Instagram
How does sleep affect weight loss and weight gain?
"Research in Annuals of Internal Medicine found that just two nights of insufficient sleep increase overall hunger by 24% and appetite by 23%," Olivia says. "It also reduces leptin, the 'feeling full' hormone, by 18%, and increases the 'hunger' hormone grehlin by 28%."
So if you're one of those people that just can't seem to put down the chips after a few bad nights of sleep, this might be why. Your body is almost being compelled to eat more. But it's not just that. Just one bad night's sleep can make our bodies more likely to hold onto fat.
"A side effect of one night of inadequate sleep is a 37% rise in cortisol levels, and this makes our bodies more likely to store fat for energy, slow our metabolism and break down muscle tissue."
In short, Olivia says, "Lack of sleep makes us more likely to gain weight even when we are eating and exercising well. Plus it decreases the likelihood that we will lose it."
How much sleep do we actually need?
Olivia says that seven to nine hours is generally the right number for most people, but what is more important is the quality of the sleep.
"Researchers have found that this is when our brains slow down to the point where we engage in a slow (delta) brainwave pattern. This is what allows all the sleep restoration processes to occur and it's only going to happen with sufficient physiological and psychological relaxation."
Our minds and bodies need deep sleep to function efficiently. If you're a light sleeper that wakes up every hour, you won't be feeling the benefits of quality sleep, even if you're getting eight hours.
But she says that generally, more sleep is better. Especially for achieving weight loss goals.
"A study [Nedeltcheva, 2010] found that participants lost 55% more body fat when sleeping 8.5 hours rather than 5.5. All other conditions remained the same, such as calories and exercise," she explains.
What else is bad sleep affecting?
Sleep can also have a big impact on your decision making.
"Research has also pinpointed the increased activation of the brain stress centre with insufficient sleep. This means you're more likely to be emotional and make poor decisions, like skipping the gym and ordering the pizza instead of the salad at dinner."
But it doesn't stop there. Sleep also controls the master regulator of all body tissue repair. This is responsible for clearing the toxins that pollute your skin and it also promotes hair growth. This means that bad sleep is also ruining your skin and hair.