With all of the amazing food, it’s not uncommon to gain a couple of pounds during the holidays. But, shedding those pounds? That can be a different story. Sleeping more may be exactly what you need. Not only does high quality sleep help you to maintain your weight and reduce health risks such as diabetes and heart disease, it could actually help support weight loss as well.
A team of researchers from Texas and Spain found that melatonin, our natural sleep-inducing hormone, may also increase the presence of a particular type of fat that helps burn energy. Found near the collarbone and along the spine in adult humans, “beige fat” is a kind of fat that does not store fat, it simply burns energy. This knowledge of energy-burning fats may be helpful in the treatment for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Over the course of 6 weeks, the researchers studied rats which lead to the finding that increased melatonin increases the presence of beige fat. Some of the rats were obese with Type 2 diabetes, while the others were healthy and normal weight. Half of the rats (both obese and normal weight) were given melatonin every day for 6 weeks in their drinking water, while the others followed their regular diet.
The rats on the melatonin regiment, both obese and normal weight, had an increased presence of beige fat at the end of the study period. The increase in energy burned– that was also demonstrated–may come from the increased sensitivity to thermogenic effects of both cold and exercise, raising the metabolic rate as the body adjusts to the changes.
The results help to strengthen earlier research which demonstrated that melatonin lowers blood pressure, improves glucose function, and slows weight gain in obese rats with Type 2 diabetes.
Doctors generally suggest that you should not start taking melatonin supplements, as there isn’t enough evidence to show how melatonin should be used effectively, and safely for weight loss in humans. Taking melatonin increases the risk for sleep problems as it may cause a disruption to your sleep cycle, which isn’t good for your health or weight control. However, do not be afraid to speak with your doctor about melatonin supplements.
What you can do is use your body’s own natural melatonin to your advantage for healthier sleep, leading to a healthier you. Avoid nighttime exposure to light, soak up sunlight when you first wake up and exercise regularly to increase your body’s production of melatonin.
New ways to use sleep for our health benefits are being discovered every day. Get ahead of the game by making sure you sleep 7-9 hours of sleep every night!