From technology to trends to politics, much has changed in America since the 1940s, including the amount of sleep we get. Gallup has been polling people since 1942 to record the average hours of sleep Americans get per night. In 1942, the average hours of sleep per night was 7.9. In their recent 2013 poll, the average was 6.8. That’s 40% of Americans sleeping less than 7 hours per night.
This overall lack of sleep can not only affect us mentally by putting us in a grouchy morning mood, but it can affect us physically too. A lack of sleep has been shown to cause weight gain. The easiest way to shed those pounds requires no gym membership at all. Research shows that getting enough sleep can actually help you lose weight.
Duh. It doesn’t take an expert to know that the more time spent sleeping, the less time you are awake to possibly be eating. Midnight munching can be tempting, but if you go to sleep while you’re still full, you can avoid those calorie packed chocolate snacks and nighttime nachos.
When you’ve had the right amount of sleep, your body is ready to take on the day. You have more energy to go to that morning hot yoga class or on an evening jog that will burn calories. Your body also has more energy to burn the calories you take in during the day faster when you’re well rested. You may not think so, but our bodies actually burn calories when we sleep too. People who sleep well burn more calories while they sleep than people who get less sleep than them.
The less you sleep, the harder it is to drop weight. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, dieting doesn’t work well when we’re sleep deprived. The study found that a lack of sleep reduced fat loss by 55 percent.
Think about it: when was the last time you were tired and wanted to curl up with a blanket and a bowl of broccoli? When we’re sleep deprived, our bodies tend to crave fatty foods. But when we have the proper amount of rest, our brains function better and we can make smart choices about our food purchases.
Too little sleep messes with our brain. When we’re tired, we don’t put together balanced, well portioned meals. We also have a tendency to overeat when we’re tired. Studies have shown that the pleasure seeking part of our brain tends to have more influence when we’re tired, so we eat too much of what isn’t good for us. We can’t make smart eating decisions when our brains are too tired to function.