By Kate Richlin-Zack
I napped for seven hours on Sunday. It was thoroughly amazing.
Sure, seven hours seems a bit lengthy to still qualify as a “nap” (I mean, is there a time limit?), but I’d argue it still counts because it occurred during the day (okay, it started during the day) and I still slept through the night.
A seven hour nap is unusual, even for a lazy girl like me. I don’t even sleep that much on a typical night. Usually it’s closer to six hours per night, unless I’m catching up on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” or this week’s episode of “Homeland,” in which case it’s probably closer to three.
Not only was the duration of this nap unusual, but the fact that a nap even occurred is an anomaly. I usually avoid napping because of the extent to which I hate waking up. The worst part of my day is getting up in the morning. I’m miserable. Not once in my life have I heard my alarm go off and thought, “Yay! I get to start my day!” I hit the snooze button about 57 times and then I need two cups of coffee just to keep from walking into walls. And if I take a nap, I have to go through the waking up process all over again. So even if I’m exhausted in the middle of the day, I’ll just grab a cup of coffee (okay, it’s really a venti Americano with two shots of espresso, aka “the Black Eye” at Starbucks) and power through.
But this weekend, I decided to indulge my need for sleep and spent Sunday afternoon (and evening) drifting in and out of sleep. When I woke up around 11pm, I felt guilty. Refreshed, but guilty. I’d spent the better part of my day doing absolutely nothing. What a waste!
Maybe not. Turns out sleeping not only contributes to your overall health (and the happiness of those around you who don’t have to deal with your crankiness), but it’s also beneficial for weight loss. Who knew?
Here’s why sleep counts in this whole health and fitness equation.
Not enough energy to exercise
It seems obvious but if you’re exhausted, you’re probably not going to force yourself to go to the gym and beast through a workout. If you do, you’re definitely not “lazy” and you’re probably one of those people who leaves the gym feeling energized and refreshed. First off, I hate people like that and secondly, unicorns don’t exist either.
Poor food choices and quick fixes
When I’m tired, I crave carbs. Hard. Apparently these types of cravings are not uncommon because foods that are high in carbohydrates are also a quick energy source. And much like you didn’t have the energy to hit the gym, you probably don’t have the energy to cook a healthy meal. Sadly, the majority of convenience foods are high in fat and sugar. It’s easier to grab a donut from the breakroom at work or a Big Mac via the drive-thru than it is to steam some broccoli or grill a chicken breast. Donuts and burgers also taste better.
Sleep deprivation affects two key hormones: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin tells you when to eat. When you are sleep deprived you have more ghrelin which probably explains why you just ate three left over Krispy Kremes and a Big Mac. Leptin tells you when to stop eating. When you are sleep deprived you have less leptin which probably explains why you followed up the donuts and cheese burger with a tube of cookie dough. Apparently due to lack of leptin, you didn’t get the message that it was time to stop eating. Bottom line, more ghrelin and less leptin means weight gain.
Sleep helps with fat loss
If, in spite of your exhaustion, you make it to the gym, ignore your food cravings, and don’t fall victim to your whacky hormone levels, you can still lose weight. A recent study demonstrated that when dieters got a full night’s sleep, they lost the same amount of weight as their sleep deprived counterparts. But even though the amount of weight was the same, the group with adequate sleep lost more fat. While the numbers on the scale are important, you should also pay attention to your body fat. Health benefits aside, the less fat you have on your body, the thinner you look.
“The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Health and Fitness” is written by the irrepressible Kate Richlin-Zack and runs every other Tues at 10:30AM on Kate-book.com. She is a former plus-sized model turned fitness enthusiast who lost about 50lbs in the process. She loves food and views exercise as a necessary evil in her quest for looking good and feeling confident in hot pants. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Sources for this week’s column:
WebMD: Weight Gain and Lack of Sleep
WebMD: Lose Weight While Sleeping