Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004) reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.

The problem is that most of those with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month – with 20 percent reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week or more. While the exact way that losing sleep may contribute to obesity is not understood, studies have shown that lack of sleep affects the parts of the brain that control pleasure eating. It’s also been shown that levels of the hormones leptin, ghrelin,

It’s also been shown that levels of the hormones leptin, ghrelin, cortisol and orexin — all of which are involved in appetite or eating — are affected by lack of sleep. Health care providers might be better able to help their overweight and obese patients by screening for sleep disorders, according to researchers Jean-Philippe Chaput, of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, and Angelo Tremblay, of Laval University in Quebec. “Successful weight management is complicated, and a good understanding of the root causes of weight gain and barriers to weight management is essential to success,” the researchers said.

“Successful weight management is complicated, and a good understanding of the root causes of weight gain and barriers to weight management is essential to success,” the researchers said.  While getting more sleep is not the solution for everyone who is struggling to lose weight, “an accumulating body of evidence suggests that sleeping habits should not be overlooked when prescribing a weight-reduction program to a patient with obesity.

The researchers pointed to a 2010 study in which participants were randomly assigned to sleep either 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours every night for 14 days. They all cut their daily calorie intake by 680 calories, and slept in a lab. Participants who slept for 5.5 hours lost 55 percent less body fat, and 60 percent more of their lean body mass than those who slept for longer.

In other words, the sleep deprived people held onto their fat tissue, and instead lost muscle. In another study, published in July, researchers looked at 245 women in a six-month weight loss program and found that those who slept more than seven hours a night, and those who reported better quality sleep, were 33 percent more likely to succeed in their weight-loss efforts.

In a large analysis of the link between sleep and fat loss, researchers looked at 36 studies, including 635,000 people around the world, and found that adults who didn’t get enough sleep were 50 percent more likely to be obese, and children who didn’t get enough sleep were 90 percent more likely to be obese, compared with those who got more sleep.

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