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Can’t lose weight? Research says bad sleep is to blame

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If you’re working out and changed your diet to lose weight, but the scale isn’t budging, you might not be sleeping well.

Sleep might be the missing key to your goal weight.

You work hard to lose weight. You eat all your fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water and crush a workout several times per week. Heck, maybe you even track your macros, count your calories or have a full-on food journal. And of course you keep a close eye on your daily step count and log your workouts

So why — cue frustrated hand gestures — can’t you lose weight

If you’re doing all of the above, you probably already know that weight loss is a long, windy, nuanced process. You can’t avoid the ups and downs and you have to keep chugging along despite bad days

But… when you have everything so dialed in, so meticulously planned, it can feel like a strong slap in the face when your body doesn’t budge. You might be missing one big piece of the puzzle. You might not even know this piece exists; it’s an often overlooked aspect of weight loss. 

The big missing piece? Precious sleep

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Despite doing everything right with diet and exercise, you could easily derail your efforts with a crappy sleep schedule. Think of weight loss as a pyramid. Sleep is the bottom layer. Then comes nutrition and hydration, then exercise. At the top, you have things like food tracking, step counting and supplementing

Sleep deprivation ruins your weight loss efforts in four big ways, explained below. 

Two of your major hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin, get all wacky when you deprive yourself of sleep. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite while leptin decreases it. 

When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin spikes and leptin lays low. The result? Your appetite goes through the roof and leptin isn’t there to say, “Hey, we’re not hungry.” 

What’s really scary is that this can happen after just one night of reduced sleep.

Think about the kinds of food you want to eat when you’re tired. If you’re like most people, you probably gravitate toward something sugary and high in refined carbohydrates or something greasy, fatty and delicious. 

Researchers actually uncovered this trend in studies and the science is clear: When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to make poor food choices. Scientists don’t yet understand all of the biological mechanisms behind this, but think it may happen due to reward circuits in your brain.

Sleep deprivation makes donuts seem even tastier than usual. 

You may not get the most out of your workouts when you’re sleep-deprived. Studies show that exercise feels harder after a night of no rest and that sluggish feeling means you might not move as fast, lift as heavy or workout for as long

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because there’s no need to go hard at the gym when you don’t get enough sleep. But it’s something to keep in mind when you can’t help but wonder why your workouts aren’t working. 

If I had to guess, you’re probably pretty stressed out already. Balancing work, family and household duties during a pandemic while trying to stay in shape is — and this is a gross understatement — a challenge. 

Most people don’t realize this (thanks to the “no excuses” fitness culture), but doing intense workouts when you’re already overly stressed isn’t always a good idea. High-intensity workouts trigger your body’s stress response and if you don’t get enough sleep, your body won’t recover well. This chronic elevation of stress hormones can stunt your weight loss efforts.  

The best course of action is to try to get more sleep, because not only will more sleep help with weight loss, but it’ll positively impact other areas of life, too. More sleep just isn’t in the cards for many people, however. 

Here are a few ways to aid your weight loss efforts even when you can’t clock eight hours each night:

Finally, if it’s not your schedule that’s the problem — you spend enough hours in bed but just can’t sleep — you may want to talk to your doctor about sleep deprivation, potential underlying conditions and treatment options. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy, which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion.

This Article was first published on cnet.com

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