I’d like to talk about one of the most basic, yet vitally necessary functions needed to reach and maintain optimal levels of human health: sleep. Unless you’re part cyborg, everybody needs a solid night’s worth of shut-eye. Doctors, athletes, students, kids, parents, grandparents, sign flippers, ventriloquists, literally EVERYBODY needs sleep in order to function and perform at their best. Now I’m sure some of you, if not most, are thinking “Duh, everyone knows that you need sleep to function.” Well, did you also know that sleep can affect body weight? Let’s start with a couple “fun” facts.
Fun Fact #1: According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 35% of adults in the US are sleep deprived, meaning they’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night.
Fun Fact #2: According to our good friends at the CDC again, 35.6% of adults in the US are obese, meaning your BMI (body mass index) is 30.0 or higher.
Let’s keep it real: those numbers can’t simply be coincidental, right?
Sleep is vital when it comes to regulating healthy insulin sensitivity in the body. Insulin, for those who need a quick refresher, is the main anabolic (muscle building) hormone in the body that regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Maintaining a healthy insulin sensitivity enables your fat cells to remove fatty acids and lipids from your bloodstream (good). When you develop a resistance to insulin, fats are released into your bloodstream (bad) and your body pumps out an excess of insulin, eventually resulting in fats being stored in places you don’t want them to be (more bad).
Let’s get sciency again for a sec. According to a study done by researchers at the University of Chicago, total-body insulin response dropped 16% in the subjects tested after 4 days of “low” sleep, while insulin sensitivity in fat cells dropped by 30%. These results are “comparable to the difference between cells from obese vs. lean participants or from people with diabetes versus non-diabetic controls.” While both of those reductions are worth noting, the thing that blows my mind is that they happened after only 4 days of low sleep. What about the people who typically average 4-6 hours on a regular basis? Don’t worry, all is not lost.
The human body is capable of incredible things and can typically rebound from most adverse effects caused by poor sleep simply by getting more of it each night, along with a healthy diet and regular exercise. I know that this is easier said than done, but you can start by setting simple reminders in your phone or the awesome voice-controlled home assistant you picked up for Christmas (Hey Google, set a reminder to go to bed at 10pm tonight). And don’t stress if you only get 4-6 hours one night, just make up for it throughout the rest of the week.
Hopefully you didn’t hit the snooze button while reading through this, but if there’s anything to take away from the info above it’d be the importance of getting 7.5 hours or more of sleep each night to help increase weight loss. Good luck and sweet dreams!