Vickie stays lean all year long. She always looks like she's a few weeks out from a figure competition. Everyone hates the bitch.
No, they don't hate her, but they all want to know her secret. When asked, she just says she eats "clean." But it's not a willpower thing. Vicky just doesn't like sweets or other calorie-dense foods.
Donuts? Doesn't like them. Pizza? She'll pass. Her secret is that she just doesn't crave that kind of stuff. Ever. She doesn't really know why, but that lack of junk-food jonesing makes it pretty easy for her to avoid fat gain.
Now researchers may have found a way for all of us to be a little more like Vicky: just sleep about one extra hour per night.
Researchers out of King's College London recruited 42 people with bad sleep habits. Half slept the same amount of time they always did (the control group) and the second half was instructed to sleep longer by about 1.5 hours. Their goal was to get the 7-8 hours most experts recommend.
The extra-sleep group was also taught several strategies for better sleep, like avoiding late-day caffeine, establishing good pre-sleep rituals, and not going to bed too full or too hungry. All participants wore motion sensors on their wrists that monitored sleep. Food intake was also tracked.
By the end of the study, about half of the sleep extension group was successful, logging 52 to 90 minutes more sleep per night.
The sleep extension group reduced their intake of foods with added sugars, which included syrup, honey, and fruit juice, along with plain ol' sugar. They also reduced their overall carb intake. They weren't instructed to change their diets. They just did, naturally.
Researchers concluded that getting adequate sleep leads to better food choices. On the flipside, not getting good sleep makes it easier to reach for more sugar and more calorie-dense, low-nutrient crapolla.
We know that lack of sleep makes us crave more junk, usually of the sugary/carby variety. And we usually assume it's because we're tired and our dumb bodies are demanding that quick hit of fleeting energy. Stupid bodies.
But there's more to it than that. Another study sheds some light, this one being the first study to find a specific brain mechanism that's linked to food cravings caused by piss-poor sleep.
Researchers from UC Berkeley published a study in the journal Nature Communications that found that sleepless nights "have a direct impact on brain regions that control decision making."
Basically, they discovered that lack of sleep activated the deep, primal regions of the brain, the ones that respond very well to immediate rewards. This is considered a low level, animal-like brain activity, in contrast with high-level activity like making good decisions. You know, like not swan-diving into a box of Krispy Kemes.
In short, if you don't sleep enough then good judgment is blunted while reward-seeking behavior is amplified.
Just do your best to get more sleep if you want to lose fat and keep it off. It'll increase your "willpower" around junk food.
If good sleep evades you, look into a multi-ingredient sleep supplement, one that contains things that help you relax and de-stress before bed. PhGABA, 5-HTP, and L-Theanine make for a great combo. You can find it in Biotest's Z-12™.
- Al Khatib HK et al. Sleep extension is a feasible lifestyle intervention in free-living adults who are habitually short sleepers: a potential strategy for decreasing intake of free sugars? A randomized controlled pilot study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan 1;107(1):43-53. PubMed.