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Why Sleep is Important for Fat Loss

July 08, 2019 12:40 IST
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You may eat great food, exercise enough and yet not lose fat because you are sleep-deprived.
Most of the magic takes place when you sleep well.
A must read excerpt from Luke Coutinho's The Magic Weight-Loss Pill: 62 Lifestyle Changes.

Photographs: Kind courtesy Pixabay

I think of sleep and recovery as the secret sauce when it comes to burning belly fat, losing weight and enhancing health and immunity.

The most important factor is to make sure your sleep cycle is optimised.

It's not just about how many hours of sleep you get, but also about the quality and depth of your sleep cycles.

There is so much going on in the body when you sleep, particularly the production of hormones.

The human growth hormone, which accelerates healing and regeneration, replenishes energy and builds growth and muscle, is one of the hormones that is secreted.

Lack of it in the body is also responsible for premature ageing. No amount of anti-ageing creams or injections will work if you're not producing this growth hormone


Stanford University found that deprivation during just one 24-hour period of sleep leads to an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that makes you want to eat.

It also suppresses leptin, which is necessary for your brain to know you are feeling satiated.

Less leptin makes you keep eating as satiety is delayed. At the same time, the level of cortisol in the body increases, which causes the body to store more fat.

Fat gain and the inability to burn it off is almost always about poor hormonal balance, and this research proves just how important sleep is to maintaining that balance.

To understand this process a bit better, it is necessary to understand how important melatonin is and how it works for your body.

Your body starts producing melatonin as your surroundings get darker and exposure to artificial light decreases.

Without sufficient melatonin, you cannot sleep, even if you are physically and mentally exhausted.

Melatonin is also a powerful anti-cancer hormone. Tumour growth accelerates when you have insufficient or disrupted melatonin.

Sufficient melatonin is also needed to interfere and stop the new blood supply tumours require for their rapid growth.

Melatonin has a connection and association with brown adipose tissues, a type of fat that helps burn white fat, which is not required in the body.

It is found in your chest, upper shoulders, above your clavicle and in the back of your neck. Artificial light from your tablets, phones, TVs and alarm clocks disrupt melatonin production.

Many people sleep for 8-9 hours every night and yet feel tired all the time, without the desired results of fat loss.

They may eat great food, exercise enough and yet not lose fat because they are sleep-deprived. This is because most of the magic takes place when you sleep well.

It is not enough to sleep a number of hours, but to also reach that deep anabolic stage, amid the slow waves of delta that make deep sleep happen.

Each phase of sleep is correlated to specific functions, ranging from regeneration, growth and detoxification of cells and organs in the body, to make them work better for weight loss and good health. For example, your liver, which is the main fat regulator, regenerates and heals while your sleep cycle is deeper.

Have you ever wondered why your mouth smells when you wake up in the morning, why you have dirt in your eyes or why your urine is warm and yellow?

All this signifies that your body was detoxifying while you slept, and the waste is a byproduct of it.

Men's beards grow while they sleep, signifying growth. Similarly, if you fall and bruise your knee, you wake up to find a scab, indicating repair and growth while you slept.

The body also experiences fat burn and hormone-balancing during the process.

So when we sleep less or the quality is impacted negatively, all of the above gets compromised.

There is also research showing that conditions like Alzheimer's disease may be caused by the brain's inability to detoxify.

The human body has a lymphatic system that is the body's garbage-disposal system for cellular waste removal. This system does not connect to your brain because of the blood–brain barrier.

There is no room in the brain for growth, repair and regeneration when it is overloaded with toxins.

Since the lymphatic system cannot detoxify your brain, the brain has a 'glymphatic' system that does the job.

This system pumps cerebral spinal fluid through your brain, which flushes out the waste and toxins into your body's circulatory system. The waste is then taken to your liver and finally eliminated.

When you sleep, your brain cells shrink in size almost 50 - 60 per cent to allow more space for the cerebral spinal fluid to flush out toxins and waste, and your glymphatic system gets 8 -10 times more active.

For example, amyloid-beta -- a protein that forms the notorious plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients -- is removed in significantly greater quantities during sleep.

As stated by Time magazine, 'The findings raise interesting questions about how sleep may affect the progression of Alzheimer's disease or other neurodegenerative disorders, but they also provide a strong warning for anybody who skips sleep. 4 The short version: don't.'

According to Dr Nedergaard: 'The brain only has limited energy at its disposal, and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states -- awake and aware, or asleep and cleaning up. You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time.'

The more toxins your brain has, the more fatigue you feel, which, in turn, leads to imbalances in the brain and hormones.

This doesn't just impact immunity, it also creates brain fog, lethargy and forgetfulness, and impedes your ability to make decisions or think.

Also, when your REM (rapid eye movement) cycle gets disrupted, it can trigger irritability, difficulty in concentrating and low immunity.

These feelings generate uncontrollable cravings, which can lead to weight gain.

When you are trying to build a business, make a living, raise a family or just have a good time, usually the easiest thing to sacrifice or skimp on is sleep, and this is something that you need to change.

Who says you can't have a fun-filled life along with giving your body and brain the sleep it needs?

The continuous lack of sleep has a cumulative effect and it's not wise to think that you will use weekends or holidays to make up for lost sleep. The human body does not work that way.

Melatonin has to be produced, hormones have to be balanced, and cells need to regenerate, grow and repair every single day and night.

Your body will not wait for the weekend to do this and match your lifestyle.

My advice is listen to the biofeedback that your body gives you every day.

If you feel tired during the day and constantly yawn, you need more sleep.

If you sleep and wake up tired, you need more sleep.

If you're ill or in recovery, you need to sleep more than usual.

If you work out hard and intensely, you need more sleep and rest. And don't turn to sleeping pills to solve your problem.

Excerpted from The Magic Weight-Loss Pill: 62 Lifestyle Changes by Luke Coutinho and Anushka Shetty, with the kind permission of the publishers, Penguin Random House India.

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