How Stress and Sleep Affect Your Weight
Thinking about shedding some pounds? It's time to start chilling out and getting a good night's rest.
Other than the obvious causes of weight gain—too many calories and not enough exercise—it turns out that too much stress and not enough sleep can add pounds as well.
The stress connection surfaced in a nine-year study of 1,355 people published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Both men and women tended to gain weight due to stress tied to jobs, bills, depression or anxiety, the study found. However, some types of stress caused more problems for one gender or the other.
Women, for instance, gained weight when stressed over limitations on their lives and problems with family relationships. And men gained weight when stressed over workplace issues such as lack of authority or little opportunity to learn or use new skills or do interesting work.
What about lack of sleep? Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland studied more than 68,000 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. They found those who slept five hours or less a night gained more weight over time than those who slept seven hours a night.
Experts believe that not getting enough sleep reduces the amount of certain substances in our blood. These substances help control our appetites; with less of them, we tend to not feel full after eating.
Based on these studies, you can use these methods when you're trying to lose weight:
- Make sleep a priority. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Stay away from large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed.
- Get regular physical activity. Because it burns calories, exercise may well be the best thing you can do to counteract weight gain. It also helps you manage stress by regulating levels of the hormone cortisol—and it can help you get a better night's sleep.
- Learn and practice relaxation exercises. Meditation, deep breathing, guided visualization, yoga, tai chi and other physical activity can reduce anxiety and manage stress.
- Build your emotional network. Lack of support is linked to eating in response to stress.
- Keep a food diary. Doing so can help you get a handle on emotional eating triggered by stress.
Source: Krames Staywell, American Journal of Epidemiology