Sleep & Weight Loss: The Secret Key

Sleep, the one activity that every living being whether they be an animal or human, takes part in.  For us humans sleep patterns can influence our health in a multitude of ways, but did you know it can be the secret key to successful weight loss?  With adequate sleep the body will produce two vital hormones, ghrelin and leptin.  Both of these hormones are key to maintaining healthy eating patterns and regulating body weight. 


First, let's provide a little background on each.  Ghrelin is the body’s hunger hormone, its job is to let your body know when you are hungry or if you need to eat more during the day.  Leptin does the opposite, it is known as the satiety hormone and helps your body know when it is full.  Both hormones can fluctuate in the body for a number of reasons.  Ghrelin is usually at its highest levels before eating and its lowest after. Leptin can vary depending on your body, so this is different for everyone. 


All of this talk about why sleep is important but we haven’t talked about what happens if you don’t get enough of it.  Sleep deprivation and weight gain or weight loss go hand in hand, below are a few diet and health related examples of how the two are linked.

  • You may experience low energy due to improper insulin function.  Insulin helps your body take glucose from your bloodstream to utilize it as energy.  If you do not get enough sleep on a regular basis it can actually make it harder for your body to acknowledge these signs from insulin. 
  • You might consume more calories than your body needs.  It has been found that individuals who do not get enough sleep tend to overeat.  In some findings it has been recorded that people take in almost an extra 500 or more calories on days when they have had a bad night's rest.  This is equivalent to eating an extra meal in the day on top of the normally recommended three!
  • Your cravings for salty and sweet foods might spike. Junk food, the two words everyone who is trying to live a healthy lifestyle dreads.  When a person doesn’t get enough sleep they are more likely to start craving junk foods like chips, candy, and ice cream.  Adequate sleep patterns can help reduce your body's natural cravings for these diet foes.
  • You might feel more hungry during your day.  If your body is experiencing low levels of leptin your ghrelin levels might spike.  So not only is your body feeling extremely tired, it will also feel extremely hungry!  

After talking about the negatives of sleep deprivation and weight you might be asking yourself, how do I stop this from happening to me?  There are a few ways you can improve your sleep that are easy to implement.

  1. Limit your daytime naps or don't nap at all if possible. If you must nap then make sure it's for no longer than 30 minutes and you don’t do it too late into your day. 
  2. Try to get yourself on a sleeping schedule.  The normal adult needs no more than 8 hours of sleep a night.  If you can go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, your body will be able to acknowledge your natural sleep cues. 
  3. Try not to eat or drink alcohol too close to bedtime.  Going to bed with heavy meals still in your system or large amounts of alcohol can lead to a restless night's sleep.  Both can disrupt your sleep pattern and keep you awake throughout the night. 
  4. Create a peaceful sleep environment.  Try to reduce the amount of light in the room and screen time prior to bedtime.  Normally a cool, dark and quiet room is the best situation when trying to sleep.  If you require noise to fall asleep, a light fan in the background can be the perfect white noise.
  5. Get active during the day.  Taking part in physical activity can help promote better sleep.  Mainly because you are using up your stored energy levels, making it easier to fall asleep at night. 
  6. Try to reduce stress levels.  If you can try to find solutions to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Maybe write down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.