How Sleep Affects Weight Loss

How Sleep Affects Weight Loss - Kelly Rennie

How Sleep Affects Weight Loss


Are you eating well and exercising regularly but not seeing any noticeable weight loss?

Chances are your sleeping habits are causing the problem.

Our culture loves the person who sleeps less and works more but the end result may, in fact, be making you Ill. The truth is, regularly missing out on 6+ hours of sleep per night affects the brain so much that you basically get re-wired to make bad decisions during your waking hours. With the brain’s frontal lobe struggling to remain active your decision-making and impulse control abilities go haywire, making it very hard to keep that diet going or to give your all in the gym.

It gets worse, too.

When you are sleep deprived the ‘reward centres’ of your brain increase their activity. This is that moment when you feel so bad that you are compelled to find something that you believe will make you feel better. For most, this means more snacking, more comfort food and significantly bigger portions, with little to no hope of stopping until the sleep deprivation is resolved.

Sleep and Hormones

Always remember that sleep is like healthy food for your brain. When it is starved of sleep it doesn’t know which way to turn. The hormones that determine how hungry and how full you are go crazy.

Leptin, the hormone that signals to your brain when you are full, plummets to very low levels in the sleep deprived. One the other hand ghrelin, the hormone that tells your brain when to eat, is produced in larger quantities. The end result is wanting to eat all of the time and not knowing when to stop. Studies also suggest that people with an increased level of hunger due to sleep deprivation tend to automatically favour carb-rich, sugar-laden, salty foods as a general rule. Goodbye bikini body!

Lack of sleep can also cause dramatic alterations in our glucose tolerance, which is how readily our bodies recognise and use glucose for fuel. Glucose intolerance has strong links with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with research indicating that people who sleep less than 5-6 hours a night are twice as likely to develop diabetes. If that wasn’t enough our secretion of cortisol, the ‘stress’ hormone, increases as our sleep time goes down. This increases our alertness and sends a panic signal to the body to conserve energy for fuel, which makes it much harder for us to lose weight.

How to get your sleep back on track

Fortunately for us getting our sleep levels back to normal is pretty easy, it just requires some willpower. We should create a ‘sleep schedule’, where we do relaxing things for a few hours before bed, such as taking a bath or meditating. We should avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol for at least 5 hours before we go to sleep. Finally (and probably the hardest), we should shut off all of our screens – the iPad, the laptop, the TV – at least an hour before bed. This way our brains are no longer super-alert and the natural darkness will help our bodies to release melatonin, which is our sleep hormone.