If you find it nearly impossible to shed the extra pounds from your midsection, you’re not alone. Perhaps you’ve tried juice cleanses, herbal detoxes and practiced intermittent fasting to get rid of the extra weight. You work out 4 times a week, count your macros and avoid refined sugar and processed foods like the plague. But for some mysterious reason, the extra cushion around your waistline just won’t budge. Or worse, if it does, it comes back with a vengeance only a few short weeks later. Nothing could be more frustrating when putting in the effort to reach your weight loss goals.
Whether or not we like to admit it, there’s a reason why fat sets up camp on our waistlines in the first place. The obvious triggers are dietary factors, such as frequently consuming refined (white) sugar, which can be anything from white pasta, white bread, muffins, bagels, candy, pop and alcohol. Skipping meals and not getting enough protein can also trigger fat storage, as well as exercising infrequently, or even too much.
But for the purpose of this blog post, let’s say you eat a clean diet and exercise regularly- yet the belly fat won’t budge. What gives?
The answer could be in your bedtime routine. If you aren’t getting a sufficient amount of quality sleep each night, which means at least 7.5 to 8 hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep, you risk upsetting the hormones that regulate your metabolism and appetite, which will inevitably sabotage the success of your weight loss goals. Now, you may be thinking that sounds way too simple. And you may also be thinking that you do, in fact, get enough sleep. But before you skip over this blog post, hear us out. What we’re about to tell you may be the answer to saying adios to the muffin top for good.
The Leptin, Ghrelin and Belly Fat Connection
As you may already know, your hormones are the chemical messengers that control every single function in your body, especially how well your metabolism functions. Have you ever experienced the persistent carb cravings that practically scream at you for muffins, pastries or heaps of pasta when you’re tired? Not only is that your body’s way of trying to get energy, but it also has to do with the two key hormones that regulate your appetite: leptin and ghrelin. Both of these hormones can’t function properly if you’re not sleeping restfully for at least 7.5 to 8 hours each night.
Leptin is responsible for suppressing your appetite and telling your body when you’re full. Ghrelin increases your appetite, sends hunger signals and increases the desire to eat. The less quality sleep you receive, the lower your leptin levels become. This causes your ghrelin levels to increase. With a stronger appetite, you end up consuming extra (and often unnecessary) calories- when really your body is just craving a few additional hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The Other Hormone that Sabotages Weight Loss Goals
Although leptin and ghrelin are the primary hormones that control your appetite, they aren’t the only hormones that are negatively impacted with sleep deprivation. The stress hormones that trigger belly fat storage, such as cortisol, are also released when you aren’t receiving 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Cortisol is a hormone that’s released when our bodies sense we’ve encountered a dangerous situation. Back when we were living in caves and being chased by hungry animals, cortisol was released as a survival mechanism to help us run faster, see clearer and produce extra energy. Cortisol also triggered fat storage around our midsections to form a protective “cushion”.
Nowadays, our sources of stress come from corporate jobs, running from meetings to appointments in rush hour traffic and trying to maintain chaotic schedules seven days a week. On top of that we’re not getting nearly enough sleep, which is also a form of negative stress. All of these events lead to increased cortisol levels. Our lives aren’t necessarily in danger during rush hour traffic or while giving an intense work presentation, or when we’ve only had four hours of sleep. But our bodies still perceive stress same way and elicit the same biological reaction, as if we were literally running for our lives. This can further explain why the spare tire won’t budge despite following a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Balancing Your Hormones to Lose the Belly Fat
Balancing your hormones to promote sustainable midsection weight loss begins with proper sleep. Your hormones depend on consistent rest to recharge and rebalance. And since your hormones work so closely together to perform every function in your body, when one hormone is thrown off balance from not getting enough sleep, you can bet the others will be too. When your hormones are imbalanced, your body is more likely to store fat around your waistline. When you receive quality sleep for 7-8 hours each night, your hormones can reset and recharge to perform their jobs better. This means your energy levels will increase, your cravings for sugar and starchy carbohydrates will diminish, you’ll have more motivation to exercise and your body will be able to digest and absorb the nutrients from the healthy foods you’re eating more efficiently. As you can see, improving the health of your hormones by getting enough restful sleep has a domino effect on every function in your body- including midsection weight loss.
How to Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
It’s easier said than done to get restful sleep, we understand that. The first step is to set aside 8 non-negotiable hours for sleep. Now that you understand why sleep is an essential ingredient to your weight loss goals, you may want to consider scheduling it in as non-negotiable, as you would an important meeting. Once you’ve set aside eight hours to sleep, the key is to be able to fall asleep quickly and receive as much uninterrupted rest as possible.
Here are our top tips for sleeping restfully:
Take an Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil. Epsom salts are made from magnesium, the calming mineral. When you bathe in epsom salts, the magnesium is absorbed quickly through your skin to promote relaxation. Adding a drop or two of lavender essential oil can also help calm your nervous system and prepare you for deep, restful sleep.
Avoid caffeine after 2 PM. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make it nearly impossible to fall asleep before midnight when consumed later in the day. If you’re a coffee drinker, try having coffee earlier in the day, ideally before two o’clock. This will allow your body and mind to wind down easier in the evenings.
Sip on herbal tea. Herbal tea can also have a calming effect on your nervous system and prepare your body for sleep. Certain herbs such as chamomile, St. John’s Wort, valerian root, and lemongrass can all act as effective natural sedatives. *Note: Always be sure to check in with your healthcare practitioner before supplementing with herbs as they can interact negatively with certain medications and oral contraceptives.
Take magnesium bisglycinate* two hours before bed. Magnesium calms and relaxes your body and soothes aches and pains. Taking magnesium bisglycinate two hours before your desired bedtime can help you fall asleep much quicker and stay asleep for a longer period of time. *There are several forms of magnesium available. We recommend a powdered form of magnesium bisglycinate such as Lorna Vanderhaeghe’s MAGSmart, as it’s a highly absorbable form of magnesium that’s least likely to have a laxative effect (as many forms of magnesium do).
- Try a natural sleep supplement, such as Sleep FX. Forget the sleeping pills- it’s possible to sleep restfully, naturally. Sleep FX is an herbal supplement that contains a blend of calming herbs and amino acids to help alleviate restlessness and stress, while promoting a sense of calm and a regulated sleep cycle. Read our honest review about Sleep FX here.