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How Does Sleep Impact Weight Loss?

Author: Mary Kate Murphy

We’ve all heard it before; the myth (or fact?) that sleep may influence weight loss. This article is going to debunk the myth and determine, once and for all, whether sleep plays a role in our weight loss journey. Buckle in, and don’t fall asleep (we couldn’t help ourselves!), and check out how sleep may or may not benefit you when trying to lose weight.

Let’s start with the basics. When we lack sleep, we’re typically tired, less motivated to work out, and more likely to reach for something convenient to eat, which let’s be honest, may not always the healthiest. Furthermore, when we seriously lack sleep, we’re overall more irritable and the “mental fog” likely begins to settle in. Do these things sound like they go with a healthy lifestyle? We’ll let you answer that for yourself!

Sleep & Food Choices

According to a research study on sleep, participants that were sleep deprived for consecutive nights, noticed an increase in appetite and showed an increase in unhealthy food choices for both meals and snacks. On the contrary, the participants that had a normal amount of sleep, appeared to have more discipline around junk food and were more likely to make healthier food choices.

Broken down, a sleep deprived brain is more likely to go for that piece of chocolate cake, but a well-rested brain is more likely to be ok saying no to it.

Sleep & Metabolism

Sleep has been said to be nutrition for the brain. When we deprive ourselves of it, our brain causes us to do things we may not normally do.

When our bodies are deprived of sleep for consecutive nights, it triggers an increase in cortisol (our stress hormone) which, in turn, conserves energy for our bodies. How do we use energy and why is it important? Energy helps our bodies burn fat!

Lack of sleep makes our metabolisms a little “tired” (don’t mind the pun!) and if our metabolisms get too groggy then it has a direct impact on how our bodies’ capability to produce insulin, a hormone required to change sugar, starches, and other foods into energy.

What can we do about it?

There are many factors that can disrupt our sleep. It’s good to be aware of them in order to prime our brains and bodies for a healthy and restful night’s sleep.

Be mindful of…

  1. Caffeine: Eliminating coffee or caffeinated drinks a good six to eight hours before bed is going to ensure that the effects of caffeine wear off before it’s time to catch some zzz’s.
  2. Alcohol: Studies have shown that large amounts of alcohol before bed can affect the body’s ability to fall into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is considered the deep state of sleep and required for a full night’s rest.
  3. Nighttime exercise: Although it has not been proven that exercise at night affects our ability to sleep, one thing to consider is that if you do routinely exercise at night and have trouble falling asleep, then you may want to consider switching up your exercise routine to a different time of the day.
  4. Large meals: They can make it hard to fall asleep due to the potential cause of indigestion, which can make it uncomfortable to fall asleep.
  5. Cut off water before bed: Reducing water before bed can lesson the chances of frequent bathroom trips during the night which disrupts sleep.

In conclusion, it certainly appears that sleep affects our bodies’ ability to lose weight. Fortunately, we can do something about it by creating a healthy bedtime routine so we are comfortable and relaxed before we doze off and catch some zzz’s. Be sure to check out our other blog on, “How to Create a Bedtime Ritual.”   

Additional reference: Chaput JP, Després JP, Bouchard C, Tremblay A. The association between sleep duration and weight gain in adults: a 6-year prospective study from the Quebec Family Study. Sleep. 2008;31(4):517-523.