You’ve tried every diet you have heard of, deprived yourself of treats for days on end and stretched your body with all kinds of exercise regimens. But you still can’t seem to lose weight. Have you checked if you’re getting enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation, which has been conducting surveys for the last decade in the US, has found that most American women don’t get enough sleep. Blame it on hectic schedules, multiple demands on limited resources and the tendency to sacrifice sleep in order to meet all these targets. Either way, your mind and body are suffering the consequences, and weight gain is the most obvious fallout.

Read on to find out more about this cause and effect relationship, and how to restore the balance.

It’s All About The Stress
It’s long been known that sleep affects your hormones, mood, and cognitive skills but now, researchers are learning there’s a connection between sleep and your ability to stay trim. Inflammation triggers the body to hold onto excess weight and water: this is called stress pounds. Even though sleep is an important part of the rest and restore cycle, women put excess stress on the adrenal system in order to keep going. This pumps adrenaline into the system, raises cortisol levels, which in turn results in inflammation throughout the body. This causes most degenerative diseases as well as leads to weight gain.

Hormone Happiness
Michael Breus, PhD, a faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta, explains the role of two hormones that help regulate appetite: leptin and ghrelin. They are affected when you don’t get enough sleep, with leptin signaling to the body that you are full, while ghrelin tells the body you’re hungry. Lack of sleep makes leptin levels drop and ghrelin levels rise, which sabotages your weight because the ghrelin signals the body that you need sustenance and the low levels of leptin keep you from feeling satisfied. This sets you up for health-harming behavior that makes you more likely to drink caffeinated beverages and eat sugary foods.

How Lack Of Sleep Affects Children
A study done on children, weight gain, and sleep by researchers in Montreal found that when young children get 10 hours of sleep or more, only 10 to 15 percent of them are likely to be overweight. It has been scientifically proven that teens typically need much more sleep than they get, and getting enough sleep will help them maintain a healthy weight and, most likely, experience a better overall sense of well-being.

Health Hazards
Research also shows that a good night’s sleep helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Constant stress leads to chronic inflammation, which causes the arteries to narrow and even constrict, causing higher blood pressure. This is why getting enough sleep is essential for adults suffering from heart disease. Children who don’t get enough sleep are plagued by chronic headaches and digestive problems.

The solution to most of these problems is simple, not to mention free. Getting enough quality sleep (eight to 10 hours for adults, and 10 to 12 hours for children and teens), might mark the difference between good health and bad. So get some sleep; your heart, head, and hips will thank you for it.

Image: Shutterstock

PS: Explore our Wellness section for spa DIY, natural home care and more.
Here’s your complete guide to Emotional Well-being.

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Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.