Increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, impaired cognitive abilities – these are some of the many negative effects that can occur as a consequence of lack of sleep. One of these effects is related to weight loss. Unfortunately, poor sleep hygiene has a negative impact on weight loss. In this article, we will explore the interesting connection between sleep & weight loss and see just how a lack of sleep affects some of the processes in our body that are responsible for healthy weight management, such as our hormonal levels and our metabolism.
In addition to going over these processes, we have also included a section where we give you some tips on how to get enough sleep, as well as an FAQ section where we answer your most pressing questions.
With that out of the way, let’s explore the connection between sleep and weight loss.
Sleep and Weight: Is There a Connection?
We all know that a poor diet and lack of exercise can affect our current weight, but can the same thing be said about lack of sleep? Let’s start off by exploring the possible connection between poor sleep hygiene and weight gain.
Several studies demonstrate the importance of good sleep for successful weight management. According to this study published in BMJ Open Sport Exercise Medicine, “Individuals who regularly slept less than 7 hours per night were more likely to have higher average body mass indexes and develop obesity than those who slept more.”
Sleep deprivation leads to consuming more calories than needed, which results in weight gain over time. Additionally, sleep-deprived individuals tend to consume more fatty foods as opposed to healthier alternatives. Why is this so?
Consuming fatty foods when tired makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Our ancestors had limited access to food, but they made sure to eat up whenever possible in order to have more energy at night when it was necessary to fight off danger. Apart from that, it’s possible that we seek higher-calorie foods when we’re hungry because we feel a lack of fullness even after a big meal. Leptin, the hunger hormone, might be to blame for this – low leptin levels caused by sleep deprivation decrease our overall satisfaction and fullness after a meal, making us reach for more even though we might be perfectly full.
Another hormone worth exploring is ghrelin. Also known as the hunger hormone, ghrelin is produced in the stomach and, just like its name indicates, it’s the hormone that makes us feel hungry. During the night, we witness a gradual decrease in ghrelin levels because the body is in a state of rest and doesn’t need to burn as many calories as when we’re active. If we chronically don’t get enough sleep, our ghrelin levels don’t decrease as much, causing us to feel hungry despite the fact that we’ve consumed enough calories for our body.
What also contributes to us consuming more calories when we’re sleep deprived is the so-called reward system. Sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to seek fatty and more calorie-dense foods because the reward centres in our brains are heightened. They get a bigger high after consuming such a meal and are more likely to see food as a reward. It makes perfect sense – if we lack energy, we will undoubtedly see food high in fat and sugar that gives us fast energy as a temporary reward.
What’s more, those who have poor sleep hygiene have weakened willpower which makes it easier to reach for those sweets or that greasy pizza than individuals who have gotten an adequate amount of sleep. When we get enough sleep, it’s easier to say no to foods we know are bad for us, whereas that ability goes out the window when faced with sleep deprivation. We’re more prone to making bad decisions that don’t exclude those related to diet and exercise.
Lack of sleep also increases our overall cortisol levels – the stress hormone. That stress affects weight gain might not come as a surprise to you, but what exactly does sleep have to do with it? When the cortisol in our body is increased, it’s more inclined to store the energy we consume as fat, especially in our abdominal area. Cortisol is also responsible for activating the reward centres in our brain that make us reach for fast food when we’re in a state of sleep deprivation.
How Sleeping Affects Your Metabolism
Metabolism refers to our body’s ability to convert the food we consume into energy. Several factors contribute to the state of our metabolism, such as our genetics, what kind of food we consume, what kind of exercise regime we’re on (if any), and how much we move during the day.
In addition to other processes of the body, a lack of sleep also affects our insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone responsible for converting sugar into energy. In individuals who aren’t getting enough sleep, insulin sensitivity is decreased by a significant amount, which means that the body can’t properly change the sugar and starches consumed into energy, resulting in low energy levels. To add fuel to the fire, this decrease in insulin inhibits the body’s ability to process fats that float in the bloodstream, which get turned into fat easily. Consequently, the body has more fat cells and is more prone to certain diseases, like diabetes.
How a Lack of Sleep Increases Your Appetite Levels
It’s no secret that not getting enough sleep leads to an increase in our overall appetite levels. In this section, we will delve into how this occurs and which hormones are to blame.
Apart from ghrelin, leptin is also responsible for regulating our appetite. Unfortunately, leptin levels decrease in adults who aren’t getting enough sleep. Hunger levels increase as a result because the brain doesn’t get those necessary signals from the hormone, causing sleep-deprived individuals to consume more food than necessary.
The Link Between Sleep and Obesity
Considering all the ways lack of sleep affects us negatively, it won’t come as a shock to learn that there’s a direct correlation between poor sleep hygiene and obesity.
According to this study, “The risk of developing obesity was elevated for short- and long-duration sleepers as compared with average-duration sleepers, with 27% and 21% increases in risk, respectively.”
It is a vicious cycle indeed – insufficient sleep has an impact on energy and hunger levels, hormones, and metabolism, and being overweight decreases the quality of our sleep. One of the ways to break this cycle is to implement regular exercise in your daily schedule, preferably in the morning.
The Effect of Sleep on Physical Activity
Another way a lack of sleep impacts our physical activity levels is by decreasing our overall energy levels. Have you ever woken up after a bad night’s sleep and convinced yourself that it’s a good idea to skip the gym?
You’re probably aware of the positive benefits of exercise on our health, such as increased muscle mass, better energy levels, and improved cognitive abilities. When we’re sleep-deprived, we’re less inclined to exercise and more likely to preserve the little energy we have, so we sit around and limit our activity levels. If we do decide to persevere and visit the gym despite our low energy levels, we’re more likely to suffer from injuries due to a lack of coordination, concentration, and overall ability to perform the exercise which is a direct consequence of sleep deprivation. In turn, this results in more downtime and forces us to put our exercise regime on hold, which can also result in weight gain.
Lack of sleep also inhibits our recovery. Rest is crucial for building muscle and becoming fit, but missing a couple of days of exercise in a row can be indicative of poor recovery. If we don’t recover with proper sleep, we’re more likely to stay sore for longer which leads to skipping more workouts. On top of that, we won’t see the optimal results we desire due to a lower production of growth hormone which decreases with a lack of sleep.
Since we’re more prone to making poor choices when we don’t get enough sleep, we’re also less likely to see results from the exercises we follow through with, which can decrease our motivation. This is bad news for those who rely on motivation to hit the gym, which is why it’s safer to make working out a habit and rely on discipline to make you a regular at the gym.
If that’s not enough, protein synthesis also decreases with a lack of sleep. Protein synthesis is the main culprit of muscle gain. The more muscle we have, the less likely it is that we struggle with excess fat – it helps burn fat and increases our metabolism.
What About Oversleeping?
We saw exactly how a lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, but can the same be said about oversleeping?
Turns out, oversleeping is just as harmful as not getting enough sleep. Beyond the palpable ways it can affect weight gain, such as decreasing our overall energy levels and not allowing us to get in those morning workouts before work, it can also lead to some more serious problems, such as depression, chronic pain, and cognitive problems.
Oversleeping directly affects our biorhythm, which, in turn, affects the majority of processes in our body. Chronic oversleeping can throw our body off and lead to a myriad of issues, so it’s crucial that we are just as wary of avoiding oversleeping as we are getting enough sleep.
Not only does not sleeping sufficient hours per day affect weight gain but so does oversleeping. It’s important to find a balance if you want to successfully maintain a healthy weight.
How Many Hours Should We Sleep per Night?
So you’re acquainted with the consequences of sleep deprivation, but how many hours of sleep are recommended for good health and weight management?
Generally speaking, adults should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Some adults could get away with sleeping six or six and a half hours per night, but the consequences of that are unknown in the long run. Children and toddlers should naturally get more than eight hours of sleep every night, whereas teens should aim for eight to ten hours of sleep a night.
Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
In order to help you kick-start your new habit of getting enough sleep every night, we have included several tips we think you might find useful.
Stay away from electronic devices a few hours before you go to sleep. Scrolling on your phone might be a fun bedtime activity, but the blue light that emits from electronic devices sends a signal to your bed that it’s daytime, causing confusion and disruption in your sleeping schedule.
Work out in the morning. We’ve already established why working out on a regular basis is useful for those who seek to maintain a healthy weight, but if you exercise too late in the evening, you risk tossing and turning in your bed without being able to fall asleep. Late workouts can increase your energy levels to an extent that you feel restless and too hyped up to sleep, which is why it’s best to save your high-impact workouts for the am hours.
Creating a relaxing nighttime routine can also help. Including activities like reading, stretching, or taking a bath can help you calm down, prepare for sleep, and tackle any anxious thoughts you might have accumulated throughout the day.
Maintain a regular sleeping schedule. Our bodies love predictability, and drastic changes in your sleeping schedule can throw off the biorhythm of your body and even cause some serious changes in your metabolism. To avoid this, try as best as you can to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
What Impact Does Sleep Have on Weight?
Some of the negative consequences on our weight that occur as a result of lack of sleep include changes in hormonal levels, increased hunger levels, and disruptions in our metabolism. When sleep-deprived, we’re more likely to seek unhealthy foods that give us a quick release in energy, such as foods high in sugar and fat.
What Is the Best Time to Sleep for Weight Loss?
There isn’t a designated time of the day you should go to sleep in order to have a successful weight loss journey. As long as you get enough sleep and go to bed at around the same time every night, you should be able to see results.
Does Waking up Late Make You Fat?
Waking up late doesn’t inherently make you fat as long as you’re getting enough sleep overall.
That brings us to the end of our article on the interesting connection between sleep and weight loss! We hope we shed a light on all the ways lack of sleep contributes to an increase in weight and impedes weight loss.
Remember, oversleeping is just as harmful as not getting enough sleep, so it’s important to find a balance. Some tips you can try to improve your sleep include creating a night-time routine, working out in the morning, and maintaining a regular sleeping schedule.
Chaput J-P, Després J-P, 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
Cooper C.B., Neufeld E.V., Dolezal B.A., Martin J.L. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity in Adults: A Brief Narrative Review. BMJ Open Sport Exerc. Med. 2018