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Unless you are secretly a superhero, you need sleep. However, some of us may find it hard to allow the body and mind to unwind. We start scrolling through our phone checking social media and before you know, you can no longer fall asleep properly. Mounting evidence shows that sleep may be the missing factor for many people who are struggling to lose weight. Here are the reasons how sleep affects your weight loss and what you can do to help yourself hit the pillows.

Poor Sleep Affects Your Fat Cells

Remember the feeling of exhaustion and confusion when you didn’t sleep enough.  It’s not just your brain and body that feel that way—your fat cells do too. When you are sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess.” But it’s just a few nights, how bad could it be?  After all, coffee does wonders. But the hormones that control your fat cells don’t think so. Based on research by the University of Chicago, 4 days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin becomes completely disrupted.

When your insulin is functioning well, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from your bloodstream and prevent storage. When you become more insulin resistant, fats (lipids) circulate in your blood and pump out more insulin. This excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as tissues like your liver. And this is exactly how you gain weight and suffer from diseases like diabetes.

Lack of Rest Makes You Crave Food

The less leptin you produce, the more your stomach feels empty. The more ghrelin you produce, the more you stimulate hunger while also reducing the number of calories you burn (your metabolism) and increasing the amount of fat you store. In other words, you need to control leptin and ghrelin to successfully lose weight, but sleep deprivation makes that nearly impossible.

The research found that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of your brain that increases your need for food while also depressing leptin and stimulating ghrelin. When you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol also activates reward centres in your brain that make you want food. At the same time, the loss of sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin. A combination of high ghrelin and cortisol shut down the areas of your brain that leave you feeling satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time—even if you just ate a big meal.

What Can You Do For Better Sleep

1. Turn Off Your Electronics

Using electronic devices late at night is terrible for sleep. Watching TV, playing video games, using a mobile phone and social networking can make it significantly harder for you to fall and stay asleep. It is recommended that you disconnect all electronics and put away computers and mobile phones so you can ensure a quiet place, free of distractions. If you can’t stop clinging onto your phone, try putting somewhere in your room that requires you to walk to get it instead of putting it right beside you. You will be able to fall asleep much faster.

2. Set Your Perfect Temperature

Your body temperature changes as you fall asleep. Core temperature decreases, while the temperature of your hands and feet increases. If your room is too warm, you might have a hard time falling asleep. Setting your thermostat to a cool temperature could help. Individual preferences will vary, so find the temperature that works best for you. Taking a warm bath or shower could also help speed up the body’s temperature changes. As your body cools down afterwards, this can help send a signal to your brain to go to sleep.

3. Practice Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness

When you feel stress it is difficult to fall asleep. Yoga, Meditation and mindfulness are tools to calm the mind and relax the body. Moreover, they have been shown to improve sleep. Yoga encourages the practice of breathing patterns and body movements that release stress and tension accumulated in your body. Meditation enhances your melatonin levels and assists the brain in achieving a specific state where sleep is easily achieved. Lastly, mindfulness may help you maintain focus on the present and worry less while falling asleep. Practising these can help you get a good night’s rest and wake up reenergized.

4. Use Soothing Sounds

There is a reason why lullabies put babies to sleep. The mind and body desire rest when they hear restful and peaceful sounds. Soft soothing music, a white noise generator or even simple earplugs will provide the soothing sounds we need to fall asleep. Moreover, the reason most people are able to sleep when listening to white noise is that our brains tend to categorize these sounds as non-threatening. It lulls us to a sense of security pretty much like the effect of a lullaby on a baby.

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