You wake up after a fragmented night's sleep with the dawning realisation of what's in store for you today. It took a few moments for you to remember what's coming up, but you know it's going to be a nightmare ...if only you'd got enough sleep to get you through the day. Oh well, a few high doses of caffeine will have to be your saviour. What harm can it do, right?
You've made it to lunchtime but you're already starting to feel the caffeine wearing off. Not only that, you're boss has just landed you with a truck-load of work for a big event that needs to be finished by EOP today. Stress levels are now through the roof.
Somehow you're on fire and flying through that new task your boss gave you, but then the phone rings. It's school, and your son has just broken his wrist and needs to go to A&E - your boss isn't happy.
Eventually you make it to the end of the day and your head hits the pillow at 11:50pm. You're ready for the best sleep of your life because you know you're going to need it.
But now it's 2.30am and you're still awake. Today's going to be another hard day ...
Stress is the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties, according to sleep experts. Common triggers include school- or job-related pressures, a family or marriage problem and a serious illness or death in the family.
American Psychological Association
We know that stress is a big cause of poor sleep, but how does that affect your ability to lose weight?
How sleep affects fat storage
There are a number of reasons why you might be struggling to get some good-quality sleep, but the biggest cause is stress and I'm sure this doesn't come as a surprise.
But what affect does a lack of sleep have on your ability to burn fat?
One study that looked at participants on a calorie-restricted diet who were subjected to either 8.5 or 5.5 hours of sleep. The researchers found that the combination of energy and sleep restriction in overweight adults resulted in a modified state of negative energy balance characterized by decreased loss of fat and considerably increased loss of fat-free body mass (Ness-Abramof, 2011, p. 551).
This tells us that not only did the participants with less sleep have a reduced level of fat loss compared to the group who got more sleep, they also had an increased loss of fat-free mass, which would include muscle. That's a bad thing!
Muscle is a vital component in burning fat. Think of muscle as your cars engine, and fat as the fuel you put in. If you reduce the size of your engine, you won't be able to burn as much fuel, and it will take a lot longer to empty the tank. If anything, we want to make the engine bigger!
We'll add some more posts later with more detail on how this process works, but for now we need you to take away and think about the key message ...
If you want to lose weight and burn fat, get more sleep!
Unknown, A. (2020, May). Why sleep is important and what happens when you don't get enough. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why
Ness-Abramof, R. (2011). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Yearbook of Medicine, 2011, 551–552. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0084-3873(11)00377-4