When it comes to weight loss, there are plenty of pieces to the puzzle. And the big ones include diet, exercise, and sleep. If you're skimping on your zzz's, the price that you pay could be more than a grumpy morning. Time and again, research has shown that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain.
Why? Because exhaustion can throw your hormones totally out of wack, says Daniel Barone, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College and specialist at the Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine. When we don't get enough slumber, the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for signaling hunger, surges, and the hormone leptin, which signals satiety, is inhibited. Naturally, this encourages us to nosh on more food.
>> Read more: How to Turn On Your Weight Loss Hormones
Fatigue-related weight gain is likely influenced by other factors, too. People who don't sleep well tend to be less active than their well-rested counterparts. Blame it on not being able to focus or motivate when you're fried.
Already sleeping well? Well done! But don't get too excited: If you're already a solid snoozer, getting additional hours of shut-eye won't cause you to lose weight, says Carl Bazil, MD, director of the Division of Sleep and Epilepsy at Columbia University. But if you're like most of us and could use a few tips, read on.
1. Stop using "PM" over-the-counter meds. It seems like the simplest way to catch more zzz's, but popping these pills could be leading to weight gain. Louis Aronne, MD, director of the ComprehensiveWeight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, warns against using over-the-counter antihistamine-based sleep remedies or anything that has a "PM" listed in its name. That's because histamines are a part of our bodies' weight-regulating pathways, he explains, so if you block histamines, you promote weight gain. Avoid taking these meds regularly for a long period of time, he advises.
2. Avoid "social jet lag." No, this has nothing to do with a trip to Cabo. "The concept of social jet lag is when you tend to stay up later and sleep later on weekends," says Bazil. This time difference that our body has to adjust to "is like going from New York to California every Friday and coming back on Monday." If this is your MO—and really, who doesn't do this?—it could be contributing to weight gain. One study published in Current Biology linked social jet lag to obesity and risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Study participants with social jet lag carried "more girth around their midsection and higher levels of sugar and fats in their blood," noted researchers.
3. Establish a sleep schedule. And how, exactly, can you avoid social jet lag? Plan your sleep time, and be consistent. Barone advises keeping a regular sleep schedule so that you're assured a full 7 to 9 hours a night. Ideally, you don't want to vary your sleep and wake times more than an hour in either direction, notes Bazil. When our circadian rhythms are in a constant state of misalignment, it can be hard to establish healthy exercise and eating habits. (It's also more tempting to reach for that slice of cheese pizza at midnight.)
To read the rest of the weight loss sleep tips, click here for the original story from Prevention!
>> Read more: 7 Weight Loss Tips That Have Nothing to Do With Dieting