You already know that if you toss and turn all night, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll wake up exhausted and jonesing for high-calorie comfort foods (grilled cheese and fries anyone?) the next day. That’s because the lack of sleep causes the hormones that control your appetite to go haywire.
A sleep-deprived body pumps out the hormone ghrelin, which makes you hungry, while decreasing the hormone leptin, which would otherwise tell you you’re full before polishing off that bag of chips. On the flipside, getting the sleep you need keeps these appetite hormones in check and helps prevent you from packing on the pounds. In fact, research consistently shows that catching quality z’s makes you slimmer.
But what if the reverse were true? That losing weight could help you sleep more soundly (a healthy catch-22 of sorts)? New research suggests, yes, the interaction works both ways.
In a Johns Hopkins study of 55 type 2 diabetes patients, the subjects were assigned to lose weight via a diet or a diet plus exercise. Both groups ended up dropping an average of 15 pounds and losing 15 percent of their belly fat while boosting their “sleep score” by 20 percent, meaning they experienced less sleepiness and restless sleep.
More than just shedding pounds, researchers attributed the improved slumber to losing body fat—specifically, belly fat. And it didn’t matter if the fat loss came from the subjects’ diet alone or the diet and exercise combo. (Though we’ve noticed hitting the gym in the evening helps us conk out faster.)
Bonus: Losing weight can also alleviate snoring and sleep apnea. The bottom line? Slimming down can help you get the sleep you’ve always dreamt about.
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