Weight loss: Michael Mosley on why sleep could be the key to losing fat

Sleep requirement varys from person to person but most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more and sleep deficiency can cause a lot of problems. Nutritionists believe that getting too little sleep alters our metabolism so our bodies cannot process food as effectively.

Just one hour sleep extra every night could help you to lose weight within weeks.

Dr Mosley explains: “There is a close link between not getting enough sleep and becoming overweight.

“One of the things that happens when you get less than seven hours sleep a night, you become crazily hungry the next day, particularly craving carbs.”

The expert explains that studies have shown that after a single night of poor sleep, people on average eat around 350 extra calories the following day.

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Less sleep means snacking more, which then means exercising less. This can cause you to put weight on quite quickly.

Dr Mosley says: “A few years ago I took part in an experiment where we asked people to cut their sleep down to less than five hours on two consecutive nights and we found that this had a devastating effect on their blood sugar control, but also on their hunger hormones.”

Hormone levels are affected by sleep which ultimately can cause weight gain and obesity.

The expert says: “One hormone, cortisol, regulates metabolism of sugar, protein, fat, minerals and water.

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“Along with higher levels of resistance to insulin, which have also been spotted in the sleep-deprived, changes in levels of cortisol can lead to weight loss becoming much more difficult for those who don’t sleep properly.

“We are not saying that the weight will drop off if you get an extra hour’s sleep but I would expect to see changes within weeks rather than months.”

Sleep reduces leptin levels which is a hormone working to manage appetite. Leptin reduces hunger making it easier for you to consume less food.

Dr Mosley explains: “Researchers at the University of Chicago monitored hormonal levels and appetite in a group of 11 subjects during two 6-day periods. During the first six days, the volunteers received four hours of sleep during the night; during the second six days, they were allowed to sleep for twelve hours.

“Tests showed that sleep-deprived volunteers had 18% lower leptin levels and 28% higher ghrelin, associated with a 24% increase in self-reported hunger and a 23% increase in self-reported appetite.

“There was an overall increased preference for sweet, salty & starchy foods, with a 45% increase in salty food preference.”

When getting a good nights sleep, your body can re-set its hormones to make better food choices.

You may even feel more motivated to pick the right foods for your body and have more energy to exercise.

Dr Michael Mosley says” “As anyone who has tried to lose weight will testify, fighting a losing battle against your own willpower can be a dispiriting experience. Too often, diets leave people weighing even more than they did to begin with, as they struggle with constant hunger, cravings and loss of energy.

“There is a better way. By getting enough sleep, your body will re-set its hormones to make better food choices. And this is just the start: with a high-fresh, low-carb diet, intermittent fasting, and exercise tailored specifically for the needs of those who want to lose weight, you can completely re-set your appetite.

“You won’t want to eat unhealthy food, and the weight that you lose won’t come back.”

Dr Michael Mosley is the journalist and qualified doctor who invented The Fast 800 diet, based on cutting your calorie intake to just 800 a day to help you lose weight.

Lose a Stone in 21 Days with Michael Mosley is on Channel 4 at 9pm every Wednesday.

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