When it comes to managing our weight, we talk a lot about metabolism. We know it’s the engine that runs the body but unless you remember the olden days of biology class, you may not remember how it all works.
What most of us know is that it’s the mechanism that helps us lose weight, so the faster it goes, the faster we lose weight. The question now is: How can we boost that metabolism? Is it possible?
Yes, it is! While we all have different metabolisms, there are ways we can speed things up and the first idea I’m going to give you is going to make you very, very happy.
Yep. Pay close attention, because you’re going to have your mind blown when I share a few stats about how much sleep can impact your metabolism.
First – let’s lay the groundwork with a very simplified explanation of what your metabolism actually is.
It’s tempting to think of your metabolism as a “thing” – kind of like your body’s speedometer that controls the rate your body burns energy.
But your metabolism actually is a complex process where your body turns the food you eat into energy. And since you have dozens of trillions of cells, you can just imagine how complicated this whole process is.
There is a long list of things that can affect your metabolism, including many things you can’t control – like your age, genetics and whether you are male or female, and more.
BUT… the good news is there are a lot of things you can do to rev up (or slow down) your metabolism, based on your lifestyle choices.
And that’s where sleep comes in because it can be a game-changer when it comes to getting your metabolism moving.
Is sleep an issue for you? I feel like many of the women in my life have issues sleeping while my husband could probably fall asleep at a raging football game. Maybe it’s hardwired for some of us, but it definitely has an effect on every aspect of our lives.
So here’s something most of us have probably experienced: Have you ever had a bad night of sleep and felt hungry the entire next day?
This is because your body’s hormonal system takes a hit when it doesn’t get enough rest. I’ve had those days where I feel like I just can’t eat enough to stay satisfied.
Scientists believe this is linked to a disruption in two hormones, called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin signals to make you feel hungry, and leptin signals when you feel full. I like to think of it as my body’s shut-off valve.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body can release MORE of the HUNGER hormone and LESS of the FEELING-FULL hormone … so now you can see how you can end up eating more but still never feel fully satisfied.
Adding to that is the fact our willpower is at a low-point after a sleepless night. And speaking of willpower, if you think of all the decisions you have to make in a day and the fact that the more decisions you make, the harder it is to make those decisions and you have a perfect storm of really, really needing that pizza. Nix the salad please.
Not getting enough rest can also activate a part of your brain that is especially sensitive to seeing or smelling food, which can make you want to eat it even more.
So all of that just lays the groundwork for taking in more calories than your body needs and here’s the important part:
This whole cascade of chemical reactions happening in your body are NOT YOUR FAULT. They’re normal, it’s just that we have to understand what’s happening before we can do something about it.
This leads me to the second part of how not getting enough sleep affects your metabolism, and that has to do with the BURNING OFF of that FUEL.
Have you ever had a few bad nights of sleep in a row, and noticed that the scale goes up?
It’s a real “thing” … researchers found that when adults were limited to 5 hours of sleep a night over 5 nights, they actually gained weight. They put on an average of 1.8 pounds, which is crazy, right?
And another study found that getting only 5 hours of sleep at night cut the rate of fat loss by more than 50%.
And the worst thing for sleep is stressing about not sleeping. I’ve done the clock-watching thing – you know where you’re like – If I got so sleep right NOW I can get this many hours of sleep. And an hour later, you’re saying the same thing.
But there are some things you can experiment with to help you get a better night of Zzz’s.
Are you ready?
It starts with setting yourself up for success from the get-go.
- Get some sunshine in the morning to reinforce your natural circadian rhythm.
- Also, sneak in some exercise during the day. Among many other things, this can help with your body’s stress hormones AND make you more physically tired so your body wants to sleep at night.
- If naps get in the way of your sleep routine, try to avoid them, especially late in the day. A short cat nap after lunch is fine, if you’re lucky enough to be able to take one.
- Some people find that having coffee or other caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m. can impact their sleep.
OK, so those are things you can do during the day to help improve your sleep. Here are some things to think about closer to bedtime …
First, avoid heavy meals for a few hours before bed … and stay away from alcohol since that can contribute to restless sleep. I totally ignore that. Not gonna lie.
Another helpful thing to do is dim the lights in your home an hour or two before bedtime, to signal your body it’s time to go to bed.
Also, stay away from any devices that emit blue light … like your phone and TV.
Plus, you definitely want to make sure your bedroom is sleep-friendly. It should be dark, not too hot, and quiet. You might also want to try adding some white noise – there are lots of great apps you can try. My favorite is Relaxing Melodies – the oscillating fan keeps my husband’s snoring to a minimum.
This last one might be a toughie, but if you’re used to sleeping with your dog or cat on the bed, try changing that up for a few nights and see if that helps. I know that one is tough – My late cat Ziggy was a regular visitor in my bed and he definitely interrupted my sleep.
But if you’ve ever tried to lock a cat out of your room at night, you probably know it’s almost more of a nightmare (pun intended) than just letting them in.
Note to Self: Train next cat to sleep in his/her own bed. Also note to self: Learn how to train a cat.
This is an experiment to find out what helps you sleep better, so all cards are on the table 🙂
And if none of those things seem to work for you, it’s worth bringing up to your doctor at your next visit … because your sleep affects so much beyond your metabolism.
What are your go-to behaviors when it comes to sleep? Leave a comment and tell us about it!