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Sleep - Three Ways the Lack of Sleep is Hurting Us

How much sleep are you getting?
How much sleep are you getting?

Sleep is one of the things people often ignore when trying to lose weight or get in shape. Somehow it's become a mark of honor to brag about how little sleep we can get by with. The problem is, that lack of sleep is hurting us in more ways than most people realize.

When you're tired, you aren't as motivated to exercise. Instead of waking up ready to seize the day, you sit and lie down more often. If there's a choice between kicking back on the couch or going to the gym for a workout, the couch has a better chance of winning. Going through the day on too little sleep burns fewer calories, because everything we do is done with less gusto.

Sleep-deprived people don't push themselves as much when they do workout. Start exercising when you're dragging, and you probably aren't going to set any personal bests. Studies show when you haven't had the proper amount of rest, your workouts tend to be shorter and less energetic. That means you burn less calories while you're in the gym and you don't build as much metabolism-boosting muscle for when you leave.

Too little sleep messes with our diet as well. There's one positive and two negative ways it affects us.

The longer you stay awake, the more calories you burn. That's especially true if you keep yourself busy working, doing chores or engaging in other activities. That's the good news.

When people stay awake longer, they tend to eat a lot more. Let's say you stay up to binge-watch a new TV show. If it's past your bedtime, you might think a little snacking would be harmless. Combine mindless eating over two or three hours watching television and it's easy to chow down an extra 300 to 600 calories more than you need. Staying up later can add an entire extra meal each day to your diet.

Being tired also changes the types of food people crave. Your brain is looking for quick energy to combat sleepiness. That means the more tired you get, the more you crave sweet and high carbohydrate foods. Empty calories that provide a quick burst of energy, with your body storing the excess away as fat.

As if that wasn't enough, a lack of sleep messes with our hormones in several ways.

The most studied hormonal disruptions are for ghrelin and leptin. When we're tired, our bodies produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. With more ghrelin pumping through our bodies we want to eat more. At the same time, we produce less of the hormone leptin that makes us feel full. So we've got to eat more food to reach the same level of “full” than if we were rested. But that's not all.

People who are sleep deprived tend to produce more endocannabinoids in the afternoon. Those are hormones that make us eat for pleasure, known as “hedonic eating.” That sudden craving for an indulgent snack around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon may be triggered by fatigue. It gets worse.

Our bodies have to work harder to deal with the food we eat. That forces the pancreas to pump out more insulin to break down our food. That extra insulin increases inflammation and messes with fat cells ability to regulate energy storage and use.

What that all means long-term is disastrous. We don't exercise as much, so we lose muscle. We eat more, so we gain unwanted weight. We screw-up our hormones and sabotage our bodies regulating mechanisms. All from the lack of sleep.

I'm not saying getting enough sleep is going to be easy. There can be any number of issues that prevent proper rest including work commitments, family issues or health conditions. What I'm suggesting is that you take a look at the quality and quantity of the rest you're getting. Just going from six hours a night to seven can make a huge difference in your well being.

Click Here for ideas on how to get a better nights sleep.

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beginning any diet or exercise program.