If You Snooze You Lose: 3 Reasons Lack of Sleep Blocks Fat Burn

If you snooze you lose—but in a good way. More and more studies are showing that not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to weight loss. If you think that losing a couple hours of sleep to go workout is going to benefit you, while I applaud your dedication and willingness to sacrifice, you may find that, at least for the purposes of burning fat, the sleep is more beneficial.

The Fog

Research proves that insomnia directly affects brain function and decision-making. You know the story. It was game night, you were kicking butt in Monopoly, your friends begged you for one more round, but now your alarm is blaring and you’re regretting the choices that led you to a measly 4 hours of sleep. The tired-fog actually leaves you in a similar position as being drunk — you’re going to make poor choices about your health. The healthy mind-frame you’ve worked so hard to put yourself in goes out the window along with the $3.75 you paid for that sugary donut and large coffee you ordered from the drive-thru. Busted. Research actually proves that the more tired you are, the more likely you are to crave comfort food full of bad carbs and fat, larger food portions, and junk food.

The Hormones

Foggy decision-making isn’t the only factor playing into weight gain when you deprive yourself of sleep. Let’s talk about the science.  Studies show that a lack of sleep can increase your hunger and appetite. This is all because of the regulation of two major peptides: ghrelin and leptin. Basically, ghrelin makes you hungry and Leptin suppresses your hunger. If anything, you want these two on your side. When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin (the hunger hormone) spikes and leptin (the “I’m full” hormone) plummets. Long story short, your lack of sleep not only makes your brain foggy, but it brings out your inner cookie monster telling you “I need cookies, now!”

The Metabolism

But maybe none of the above applies to you — because you’ve got the will-power to resist the cravings and tame the beast! Think again; your metabolism isn’t going to be so forgiving of your late-night shenanigans. Even if you do stay strict to your calorie allotment, studies show that “when dieters cut back on sleep over a 14-day period, the amount of weight they lost from fat dropped by 55%.” Read that again. Lack of sleep cut fat burn IN HALF!! You can thank your cortisol and insulin levels for that one. When you lose too much sleep, cortisol is pumped into your system to conserve energy and keep you going instead of using it to burn fat. At the same time, your body’s ability to process insulin takes a nose-dive. Insufficient sleep causes insulin sensitivity to drop by more than 30 percent. Insulin is essential to energy conversion; if your insulin drops, so does your ability to convert sugar into energy. Not only does this block fat burn — but it increases the likelihood that the foods you eat will be stored as fat. (Your body literally goes into panic mode!).

Sure, you can push through the fog, lock up your candy stash, and try to ignore your metabolism after a restless night, but if fat-loss is your goal, getting enough sleep is a major cornerstone to the plan, and it’s something most diets rarely (if ever) mention.

Tips for Kicking Restlessness:

  • Make a schedule and stick to it. If you’re doing intermittent fasting, you’re already in the habit of planning out your waking hours around your meals. Now you just have to make the extra effort to enforce a bedtime (and adjust accordingly).
  • Stick to a routine. If you have problems going to bed until you’re dragging your feet to your room, find a routine that prepares your body to relax.
  • Turn off the lights and put down the screens. The less you stimulate your mind, the quicker you’re going to zonk out.
  • Keep it in (or out) of the bedroom. If you work from home or love to wind down with your favorite TV series, don’t do it in your bedroom. Reserve your sleeping space for just that—sleeping.
  • Count sheep. You’ve been counting calories all day, it’ll be a nice break.