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Does sleep impact weight loss?

Posted by DaVinci Healthcare Expert on Aug 13, 2021 1:45:07 PM

sleep and weight loss

If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep, you know how much it can impact the following day. It’s common to feel irritable, sad, and unable to concentrate when you haven’t gotten enough shut-eye. It’s also common to have heightened cravings for sugar and carbohydrates.

You’re certainly not alone if you struggle with sleep. While you can expect to have difficulty functioning the next day, research also shows that inadequate sleep contributes to weight gain or an inability to lose weight.[1]

This is due to the hormonal connection between sleep and weight management. In order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it’s essential to understand why sleep is one of the non-negotiable foundations of a healthy lifestyle.

sleep and weight loss

Many studies link sleep deprivation to weight gain. One study in particular found that over a six year period, short duration sleepers (5-6 hours per night) gained over 11 pounds more than those who slept more.[2]

The body’s hunger hormones—ghrelin and leptin—are affected by getting poor sleep. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) signals both when to eat and when to switch from burning calories to storing them as fat. It naturally decreases after eating and remains low when you sleep, but poor sleep increases ghrelin levels.

Read our white paper on how nutrition impacts your sleep.

Leptin is referred to as the “satiety hormone,” as it signals the body to stop eating when it’s had enough. It also stimulates fat burning to produce energy. Levels increase after a meal and remain high during sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, leptin levels decrease.

This combination leads to increased appetite and a stunted ability to feel satiated after eating. Insulin is also impacted, which can contribute to an increased desire for sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods.

the cortisol connection

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone and is released by the adrenal glands. When you experience heightened stress, the brain sends signals to increase cortisol production to prepare the body to react. Back when humans had to regularly run from predators, this stress-response was normal and necessary. In today’s paradigm of modern, ongoing, daily stressors, this continuous alert response can wreak havoc on the body’s hormonal balance.

When we talk about stressors, we mean mental and emotional stressors, work-related and financial stressors, exposure to toxins, high stress, and poor sleep. Physical stressors like lack of sleep, surgery, and other physical traumas can induce the same cortisol response as any other type of stressor.

The body’s hormones are an intricately connected web. For example, cortisol works in conjunction with insulin. When insulin levels rise, a cascade of hormonal reactions can ensue, leading to problems like weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, metabolic problems, and more.[3]

how to improve sleep for optimal weight management

Adopting certain sleep maintenance techniques, establishing healthy routines, and considering supplementation for stress management and sleep onset can all help ensure enough sleep, as well as the ability to achieve a healthy weight. Consider the following four strategies to optimize sleep.

develop sleep routines

Think about young children and the importance of solid, consistent routines for healthy sleep. The same goes for adults—especially if you struggle with sleep. Begin your bedtime routines an hour before you want to go to sleep. Incorporate relaxing habits like epsom salt baths, reading an enjoyable book, trading massages with your partner, or deep breathing. Journaling or keeping a nightly gratitude list can also help to prepare the brain and body for sleep.

turn off devices

At least one hour before bed (but ideally two), disconnect yourself from all devices. Blue light from televisions, phones, and other screens is shown to suppress melatonin. If you must use devices during evening hours, invest in a good pair of blue-light blocking glasses, and consider other ways to offset the increase in blue light.[4]

limit caffeine

While coffee and caffeine in moderate amounts can offer some health benefits for certain people, it can be detrimental to those who experience sleep difficulties. If you are struggling with nighttime sleep or feel excessive anxiousness and stress during the day, consider avoiding or limiting coffee and other caffeinated beverages.

Swap coffee for green tea, which provides some caffeine, but also offers free radical fighting properties and L-theanine, a key amino acid for cognitive function.*

supplement

Speak with your integrative doctor about supplements that support healthy sleep. The options differ based on whether you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, as well as the root of your sleep problems. Many common supplements include adaptogens (herbs and nutrients that support the body’s stress response), magnesium, sedative herbs like valerian and passionflower, liposomal melatonin—especially for shift workers—and many others.*

related content: how liposomal melatonin supports immune function

final thoughts

The truth of the matter is that it’s very hard to lose weight if you’re not getting enough sleep. Take a close look at your evening routines and implement healthy sleep hygiene wherever possible. Limit caffeine and speak with your doctor about sleep-supportive supplements. Sleeping well can greatly vary person to person, so don’t hesitate to work with a professional for a more personalized plan.

How Nutrition Impacts Sleep


[1] Hargens, T. A., Kaleth, A. S., Edwards, E. S., & Butner, K. L. (2013). Association between sleep disorders, obesity, and exercise: a review. Nature and science of sleep, 5, 27–35. https://doi.org/10.2147/NSS.S34838

[2]  Chaput, J. P., Després, J. P., Bouchard, C., & Tremblay, A. (2008). The association between sleep duration and weight gain in adults: a 6-year prospective study from the Quebec Family Study. Sleep, 31(4), 517–523. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/31.4.517

[3]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233876639_Association_between_sleep_duration_weight_gain_and_obesity_for_long_period

[4] Figueiro MG, Wood B, Plitnick B, Rea MS. The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2011;32(2):158-63. PMID: 21552190.

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