Why is sleep so essential?

A common goal among our clients is to lose fat and gain muscle! We already know lack of sleep puts the body into survival mode by increasing stress hormones leading to sugar cravings, brain fog and risk for obesity and diabetes. 

A new paper in the journal SLEEP sheds light on the effects of chronic sleep loss – even in relatively minor amounts – on body composition.

A total of 36 overweight & obese participants were recruited. Researchers took a series of measurements before and after the intervention.

Subjects were randomized into one of two different conditions:

Group A: 8 weeks of calorie restriction of 15% lower than the self-reported intake before the intervention.

Group B: 8 weeks of calorie restriction combined with sleep restriction. Sleep was reduced by about an hour for five days a week, and increased sleep by an hour for two days a week. The cumulative sleep loss was about 170 minutes per week.

Both groups experienced similar changes in body weight in response to the caloric restriction. However, the DEXA scans revealed that there was more to this story!

The amount of fat loss as a proportion of total mass lost was significantly greater in Group A than Group B. Group A also lost less lean mass compared to Group B.

The key takeaway here: moderate sleep loss – at the level that many of us regularly experience – can negatively affect changes in body composition. And trying to catch up on sleep during the weekends may not completely reverse it.

This study mimics real life – the sleep loss was not extreme, only 60 minutes less for five days per week, with unrestricted sleep the other two days. Sounds very similar to how a lot of us live now, with moderate loss across the week and then catch-up during the weekends.

How to End Sleep Deprivation

  1. Make it a priority.  One hour of sleep before midnight is equivalent to two after midnight. 
  2. Create a pre-bedtime routine.  Wind down with some journaling, light reading, warm bath or warm cup of tea. Brush your teeth.
  3. Dim the lights in the evening and turn off electronics 1 hour before bedtime to mimic natural evening and nighttime lighting.  This will help your body’s natural daily hormonal rhythms decreasing cortisol and releasing melatonin.
  4. Bed time training.  Slowly move your bed time earlier by 15 minutes at a time until you are able to get in 8 hours of sleep with a consistent morning wake time that is the same on weeknights and weekends.
  5. If you snore – consult a Medical Doctor or Nurse Practitioner for a sleep study to test for sleep apnea.

You can find the study here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29438540/