Sleep and weight loss: what’s the connection?
It’s no secret that losing out on those precious Zzz’s can impact on your health. In fact, if you’re trying to lose weight, the amount of sleep you get can have just as much of an influence as your nutrition and training.
The bad news is that many people don’t get enough sleep. According to a study completed in the US, around 30% of adults sleep less than six hours most nights1. If you’re part of that 30%, it’s time to change that.
In this article, we’ll discover just how important sleep is for weight loss and what you can do to get a better night’s rest.
What is the connection between sleep and weight loss and how does it help?
- Fight cravings
Getting enough sleep doesn’t just reenergize you – it may also control how much you eat. That’s because of two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When you’re sleep deprived, levels of ghrelin can spike and leptin falls2, leading to hunger cravings. Research has found that short sleepers had 14.9% higher ghrelin levels and 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who did get sufficient sleep3.
Not only does skimping on sleep throw your hormones out of balance, but the less time you spend in bed, the more time you have to eat. Preventing overeating starts with following a healthy bedtime routine.
- Poor sleep may reduce your resting metabolism
Resting metabolic rate (RMR) can be affected by a number of factors including age, sex and muscle mass. It’s the number of calories that you burn when you’re completely at rest.
As well as the factors mentioned, RMR can also be influenced by the amount of sleep you get.
According to research published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, ‘Sleep is intricately connected to various hormonal and metabolic processes in the body… sleep deprivation and sleep disorders may have profound metabolic and cardiovascular implications.’ Knowing this, sleep is almost like nutrition.
Without enough sleep, you may become ‘metabolically groggy’. One study completed on 15 men who were kept awake for 24 hours showed their RMR was 5% lower than after a normal night’s rest, and their metabolic rate after eating was 20% lower4.
- Insulin resistance prevention
Poor sleep has been shown to make cells insulin resistant5.
When you become insulin resistant, the cells in your fat, liver and muscles don’t respond properly to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy6. This leaves more sugar in the bloodstream, forcing the body to produce more insulin to compensate.
This excess insulin increases hunger cravings and your body stores more calories as fat. Insulin resistance is also a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
- Poor sleep sabotages workout time
Lack of sleep means less energy throughout the day. This can lead to low motivation to work out and burn those calories. Essentially, working out becomes even more challenging.
Sleep deprivation also makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise and has been shown to decrease protein synthesis7 – a natural occurring process where your body makes muscle.
Tips to improve sleep
Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. But optimizing your sleep can be an important pillar of losing weight and improving your overall health.
Here are some tips to sleep better at night.
- Reduce blue light exposure before bed
Smartphone devices and electronics emit light of a blue wavelength which is said to trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime8. This isn’t ideal if you’re trying to drift off.
It’s all due to its effect on your circadian rhythm – the 24-hour biological cycle that has a role in many internal functions9. If your brain thinks it is daytime, it’s primed for staying awake and keeping you alert. Try to not go on your phone before bed and instead pick up a book to feel relaxed.
- Curb your caffeine intake
Consumed by about 90% of the US population, caffeine is a perfect morning pick-me-up. As a nervous system stimulant, it’s said to enhance focus and energy and help you feel less tired10. This makes caffeine the worst beverage to consume in the afternoon.
Must have an afternoon cup of coffee? Try a decaffeinated version.
- Keep to a sleep schedule
Having the same bedtime and wake up time can help to regulate your body clock. Being consistent with your sleep and sticking to a schedule may even aid long-term sleep quality11.
Research has also shown that irregular sleep can negatively impact your circadian rhythm which may also alter your ability to sleep12.
Try and get into a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same times – this will positively influence your internal ‘alarm clock’.
- Consider a supplement
Natural sleep aids are available in abundance these days. If you need a little help to get a good night’s rest, you could try a supplement.
Melatonin, for example, is a popular supplement taken to support healthy sleep cycles. It’s a key sleep hormone that tells your brain it’s time to wind down13. The production of melatonin is largely influenced by time of day, naturally rising in the evening and falling in the morning.
If your melatonin production is disrupted or low, supplementing with it may improve sleep quality and even your total amount of sleep time14 15.
Valerian root16, magnesium17 and L-theanine18 may also help towards better relaxation and optimized sleep.
Did you know? You’ll find L-theanine in Instant Knockout Cut, an ingredient which works to promote a sustained and crash-free lift so you can smash your training targets. Studies show it can also improve sleep quality too, meaning you can feel well rested and ready to take your workouts by storm with no excuses19.
Find out more about Instant Knockout Cut here:
- Optimize your sleeping environment
Where you sleep may also have a big impact on the quality of your night’s rest. A bedroom environment should always have minimized external noise, no light and be a clean and enjoyable setting.
Studies have shown that when noise and light is diminished it is possible to have a better night’s sleep20.
Temperature can also affect sleep quality. As you may already know, it’s very difficult to get to sleep in humid and hot conditions. Around 70°F (20°C) is said to be a comfortable temperature for most people.
- Exercise regularly – but not before sleep
Daily exercise is good for every aspect of health. For sleep, it’s been said to reduce symptoms of insomnia21 and may even reduce anxiety22.
Many people believe you shouldn’t exercise too late in the day as it could cause sleep problems. This is because of the stimulatory influence of exercise.
Try and exercise during daylight hours or early evening to get a good night’s sleep.
Other health benefits of sleep
Sleep isn’t just important for weight loss. It’s an essential part of keeping well and staying healthy. Here are some other important positives of good quality sleep.
- Improved concentration and focus
Sleep is important for brain function and keeps you energized and focused throughout the day. Concentration, performance and productivity can all be negatively influenced by lack of sleep23.
A good night’s sleep has been shown to enhance problem-solving skills and even boost memory performance24 25.
- Better immune function
Lack of sleep has been said to impair the immune system26. Getting a good night’s rest keeps your immune system working properly and germs at bay.
This is because your body rests and repairs when you sleep. It’s one of the reasons people tend to feel lethargic when they’re unwell and why sleep is always the best medicine.
- Mood boost
Sleep and mood are closely linked – poor sleep causes irritability and stress, whereas healthy sleep boosts wellbeing. We’ve all felt it when we’re tired or had a rough night’s rest. Lack of sleep can stop you from thinking clearly and even influence your emotions.
Studies even suggest excessive sleepiness may wreak havoc on relationships and lead to mood problems like depression and anger27.
- Healthier heart
A good night’s sleep is essential for overall cardiovascular health. Research has revealed that an irregular sleep pattern is linked to a host of cardiovascular risks including high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
According to a Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “sleep-deprived people have higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation, a key player in cardiovascular disease. Even a single night of insufficient sleep can perturb your system.”28
The bottom line
The connection between sleep and weight loss is not easy to ignore. It might not seem that important but it could make all the difference if you’re currently on a weight loss plateau.
As well as good nutrition and regular exercise, sleep is one of the core pillars of healthy weight loss. It plays a part in controlling your hunger, regulating your metabolism and preventing insulin resistance.
Not only this, but a good night’s sleep is vital for those energy-zapping workouts.
If you’re struggling with the quality of your sleep, give some of the tips in this article a go. You could also talk to a healthcare practitioner who will be able to advise on the right steps to take.