A lack of bedtime may be keeping you from slimming down.

late night eatingMost adults aren’t meeting their sleep needs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of American adults report getting less than the recommended amount of sleep per night. A study by the American Psychological Association found the average amount of sleep to be just 6.7 hours.

The consequences of bad sleep are more than some bags under the eyes and going over budget on coffee. Sleep deprivation has been traced to weight gain, weakened immunity and higher risk for health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Sleep deprivation and weight gain

If the body is not recharging with sleep, it can impact how much a person eats. Someone who isn’t getting enough rest may feel hungrier and experience more cravings, often for sugary and salty foods. Sleep deprivation has been associated with poor eating habits and late-night snacking, especially on quick, convenient options like fast food.

Our pattern of being awake and asleep is called the circadian rhythm, and it is directly linked to hormone levels and fluctuations, including those that affect appetite and hunger cues. Less sleep has been linked to increased levels of cortisol (which regulates stress) and ghrelin (hunger) and decreased levels of leptin (which makes you feel full). When these hormones are out of balance, it can be difficult for stick to a regular diet and make healthier choices.

How much sleep is enough?

The general rule for optimal sleep is between seven to nine hours. However, every person is different. Some may require even more (8-10 hours). Factors like age, gender and lifestyle may also impact a person’s need for rest.

Helpful bedtime habits

If you find yourself having a hard time shutting down for bedtime, here are some tips:

  • Stick to a regular bedtime and wakeup time. Yes, even on weekends! This can help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm.
  • Create a relaxing environment. Turn off all lights and make sure the room is a cool, comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid caffeine before bed. Consider staying away from sugary foods, big meals and alcohol, too.
  • Move your body. If you can’t wind down for bed, try exerting more energy throughout the day with some physical activity.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health