Sleep more, snack less. That pretty much sums up the research. Most adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep each evening. Unfortunately for most of us, packed schedules mean we often get by on far less. Sleep isn’t just nice, it is necessary if you want to be your best – including your best weight. Here’s why…

Sleep less and you will likely eat more
Most of us reach for comfort food to soothe the irritability and fatigue that come with poor sleep habits. Usually the foods we reach for are high in calories and /or fat. Also, sleep deprivation reduces our ability to manage stress so again, we reach for the comfort food. For a double whammy that all-nighter causes the body to release more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is the culprit behind belly or visceral fat. The takeaway? Skip the late show if you don’t want the Santa belly – you know the one – it shakes like a bowl of jelly.

Sleep less and you will likely move less
Being tired also means you not only have less energy to lace up for the gym but you also likely move less all day. No exercise, coupled with less movement, is a recipe for weight gain. Regular movement throughout the day, such as standing, taking the stairs, holding walking meetings, helps you maintain a healthy weight. That’s because these little movements improve your NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. You can burn as many as 500 additional calories each day just by moving more.

photodune-3804545-sleep-xsWhy else should you go for a good night’s sleep?

Inadequate sleep interferes with metabolism function. And if you need another reason here it is…hormones. You probably didn’t know this, but they can help you pack on the pounds.

The hormones ghrelin and leptin are to blame as both are impacted by our sleep habits. Leptin sends a signal to the brain that lets us know when we have had enough to eat. Our bodies produce less of this crucial hormone when we are sleep deprived. To make matters worse, we produce more ghrelin, the hormone that encourages appetite when we haven’t had enough sleep. Ideally 7 to 8 hours each night is best.

Sleep well
Create the right environment by taking time to wind down at least an hour before you plan to turn in. Avoid electronics with bright lights because they encourage wakefulness. If that isn’t possible use an app that blocks blue lights because these lights suppress melatonin and increase alertness. There are many free apps available across operating systems that are easily installed.

Adequate sleep will not help you lose weight if you’re already getting enough. If you aren’t sleeping well and are trying unsuccessfully to lose weight, it may be time to rethink your game plan. Inadequate sleep over time will definitely cause weight gain and make it harder to lose. If you have been trying to lose weight but have not been sleeping well the answer may be as simple as getting some shut eye. So skip the late show, score some zzzz’s and see if the scale doesn’t finally move.