How Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss and Weight Affect Sleep?

Activate weight loss with a good night's sleep

Believe it or not, your sleep habits affect whether or not you lose those unwanted pounds.

Studies published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet suggest that loss of sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry a person becomes the next day. These studies show that not getting a good night's sleep can make you feel more hungry as your body increases the production of cortisol, a hormone which is released when you're under stress and is responsible for regulating your appetite. Overeating can lead to higher blood sugar levels and increased insulin production, which can result in the storage of excess body fat. Additionally, sleep loss can affect the body's metabolism, which may further interfere with the body's ability to lose weight.

Hormones and sleep

David Rapoport, MD, associate professor and director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the New York University School of Medicine, states that other hormones may also be affected by sleep loss — specifically leptin and ghrelin. Acording to Dr. Rapoport, both of these hormones influence appetite, and their under- or over-production may be determined by the amount of quality sleep you get.

According to Michale Breus, PhD, faculty member of the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine and the director of The Sleep Disorders Centers of Southeastern Lung Care in Atlanta, when you don't get enough hours of quality sleep, leptin levels plunge — meaning your brain won't get the message that your stomach is full. At the same time, not getting enough sleep causes an increase in ghrelin levels, stimulating your appetite and making it even more difficult for you to resist overeating and lose weight.

Obesity and sleep problems

If you are overweight, you may face additional complications related to sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, many overweight people also have sleep apnea, which can cause a person to stop breathing maybe hundreds of times a night and interrupt their sleep. The Mayo Clinic reports that some overweight people have lower back pain and are depressed, both of which can interfere with a good night's sleep.

What you can do to get a good night's sleep

It's important to make sure that the quality of your nightly sleep is deep and gives you the rest your body needs. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following to help you get a good night's rest:

  • Unwind before bedtime with a warm bath or shower, yoga stretches, meditation and/or listening to quiet music.

  • Stay away from caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and limit your alcohol consumption to one drink at least a few hours before bedtime.

  • Exercise, but not right before bedtime.

  • Don't take naps.

  • Go to bed when you're tired, but get up at the same time every day whether you've had a good amount of sleep or not.

  • If you have trouble staying asleep at night, keep clocks where you can't see them. This may help you avoid feeling stressed about the amount of time during which you've been unable to fall back asleep.

When your body feels rested and you are getting the sleep you need, your hormones will work in balance and support your overall weight loss program.

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