Does sleeping away your belly fat sound too good to be true?
Well it isn’t.
I know your mind is conditioned to think that you have to work hard and grind to lose your belly flab but the bottom line is if you’re not getting enough sleep you’re probably not going to burn very much fat at all.
With the daily grind of work, kids, working out, preparing healthy meals, etc, sometimes we sacrifice a few hours of sleep per night just to keep up.
But whether you work the night shift, have a 9 to 5 gig, have kids running around, or are just a college student, you need to get regular sleep if you want to lose belly fat.
In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends everyone get 8 hours of normal sleep per night.
(According to the CDC and a National Health Interview Survey shows that 30% of Americans who are 30-64 years of age sleep less than 6 hours per night.)
What Is Normal Sleep?
Normal sleep consists of two man states, rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye movement (non REM) sleep, and REM sleep is the type of sleep that is most associated with dreaming. Here are the stages of sleep broken down for you:
Stage 1: Light sleep. This is where you’ll drift in and out and can easily be awakened. Muscle activity slows during this stage and our eye movement is slow.
Stage 2: Light sleep. Brain waves start to slow down, with occasional rapid burst of waves called sleep spindles. Eye movement stops at this stage.
Stage 3: Deep sleep. Delta waves, which are extremely slow brain waves show up at this stage, and they are mixed together with faster, smaller waves.
Stage 4: Deep sleep. There is no muscle activity or eye movements in this stage. The brain is producing mostly delta waves.
Stage 5: REM sleep. Limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed, breathing becomes more rapid, and the eyes jerk rapidly. This is the stage where you’ll dream the most.
It takes most people about two hours to go through all five stages, after which, they are all repeated over and over.
As important as sleep is to your health, it has become a forgotten practice in the hustle and bustle of our fast paced American culture. This chronic sleep loss pattern is particularly troubling for those looking to lose weight or who are following a healthy weight loss diet plan because their attempts may be wasted.
Research is showing that long term sleep loss is related to an increase in obesity and diabetes.
This new research is even showing that partial sleep deprivation can manipulate key hormones that impact weight loss and weight gain. Lack of sleep can also affect insulin sensitivity, your appetite control and the amount of energy you expend when at rest. The scary part is that when these key hormones are affected it can predispose you to weight gain and obesity by causing insulin resistance.
What’s Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is a common symptom that leads to Type 2 diabetes and increased weight gain because your body must produce extra insulin to get rid of the glucose from your bloodstream. The reason your body has to produce extra insulin is because it doesn’t efficiently signal, which means the blood glucose is not cleared. If this resistance continues, your pancreas becomes damaged and cannot continue to produce enough insulin.
The end result is you will need to start taking insulin medications and your weight loss will stop. Not good if your goal is a flat belly or six pack abs.
Another bad part about sleep loss is that it may also increase your appetite and give you some nasty cravings for foods that are high in carbs ALONG with creating insulin resistance. Lack of sleep not only affects your insulin sensitivity but also affects cortisol levels and numerous other hormones that directly affect feeding. The result is, you will battle an increase in appetite when your blood sugars are not in control.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a stress hormone that directly influences blood sugar levels and is associated with an increase in obesity and specifically belly fat. Your healthy weight loss comes to an abrupt halt when cortisol levels are elevated and some research has shown that even just 1 sleepless night may increase your cortisol levels.
A study of 33 men were examined for 36 hours and some slept 8 hours, 4 hours of sleep and also total sleep deprivation. Those who slept 4 hours had a cortisol elevation of 37% above baseline and those who had total sleep deprivation had an elevation of 45% in cortisol levels.
High cortisol levels can break down muscle protein, which then contributes to elevated blood glucose levels, which in turn can lower your metabolism because of the muscle loss.
Ok now in plain english
So what’s a potential side effect of sleep loss? Well here’s an interesting one. Not sleeping enough creates the opportunity to eat more daily calories. The more hours you are awake, the more chances you have to eat. I know I do every time…those late night munchies can be killer. In fact, I stayed up too late a few nights ago and ended up pounding half a box of Wheat Thins!
Now add to what I talked about above and the fact that your appetite may be elevated because of the hormones being out of whack and you should see how incredibly EASY it is to eat those additional calories…even if your will power is iron clad.
I mean come on, we all know what happens when we stay up late and are tired. You don’t feel like cooking or preparing something healthy and usually want to reach for the processed convenience type foods that are or poor nutritional quality and higher in calories. Even I do sometimes!
What I like to do to prevent this from happening to me (I should have done this the other day duh) is to always have a supply of quality protein powder on hand so that I can quickly make a healthy shake instead of choosing a high calorie unhealthy food. A shake always kills my “munchies” and let’s me go to bed full and wake up the next day with no regrets about ruining my diet because of a weak moment!
Don’t let your healthy weight loss be ruined by making unhealthy food choices like I did the other night with the Wheat Thins. I thought I could eat just one…silly me! Hey, we all have weak moments right?
Anyways, enough about me and my silly mistakes. If you aren’t getting enough sleep then start taking steps to improve your sleeping habits like sticking to a regular bedtime, avoiding alcohol before bed (and all other times too lol), try to keep your bedroom at 70 degrees or below, and turn off the TV when lying in bed.
If none of these tips work or if you feel your lack of sleep is due to a more complicated issue than this I advise you consult with a sleep doctor and have them test your sleep pattern to see if there is a bigger reason for your lack of sleep.