By Benjamin Semmens, Registered Nutritionist (BHSc)
13 Seeds is back again with another edition of Friday Q&A, a digital series where we answer all your health and nutrition-related questions. This week’s question came from Angie: “I’ve been trying everything to lose weight, but still not seeing results. Can you help?”
Losing weight can be tough and feel like an impossible task at times. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and still can’t keep the weight off, it’s possible that a lack of sleep could be one of the reasons why you’re not getting the outcome you hoped for.
Keep on reading for more insight into how sleep affects weight gain and how you can get a better night’s rest to support weight loss so you can feel your best.
Sleep influences two important hormones that affect your appetite – leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a known as your “satiety hormone” that suppresses your appetite—when leptin levels are high, we feel fuller. Ghrelin is known as your “hunger hormone” as it stimulates your appetite that causes you to feel hungry.
A large study of 1,024 adults by the Journal of PLOS Medicine found that reduced sleep was linked to higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin. These changes could lead to people feeling more hungry and less full resulting in increased food consumption and weight gain.
Poorer food choices and increased calorie intake
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sleep deprivation causes changes in the frontal lobe of the brain that’s involved in self-control and decision making. If your decision-making skills are skewed due to poor sleep, you may find yourself eating high-sugar and high-fat foods that are loaded with calories that can cause weight gain.
Studies have also shown that people who sleep less consume more calories that can cause weight gain. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of 12 men found that when participants were only allowed 4 hours of sleep, they consumed 559 calories more than when they had 8 hours of sleep. This may be due to an increase in poor food choices or appetite, but perhaps this is just because the longer you are awake, the more likely you are to consume food.
Less energy = less workouts
When you don’t get enough sleep, you may be too tired to exercise. Exercise is a great way to burn off those excess calories coming in from foods. Even if you do exercise, you’re likely to get tired quicker leading to a less intense workout. A 2008 study published in the NCBI on 15 men found that when they were sleep-deprived, the duration and intensity of their exercise decreased. Research has shown that getting more sleep can improve athletic performance in a range of sports including basketball, swimming , and tennis.
Increased insulin resistance
Insulin is a hormone that moves sugar from the blood and into your body’s cells to be used as energy. Insulin resistance, which can be triggered by poor sleep, is when our cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t take up sugar as easily from the blood that can lead to excess calories being stored as fat.
While the main cause of weight gain is eating too many calories, insulin resistance can lead you to feeling hungrier over time resulting in increased calorie intake. This is also a risk factor for diabetes and obesity. To avoid insulin resistance, try to focus on getting better sleep and avoid the overconsumption of carbs and sugars in the diet.
How to get a better night’s rest to support weight loss
Create a consistent sleep schedule
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help to regulate your sleep/wake cycle, resulting in a better night’s rest.
Create the ideal sleep environment
Humans sleep best in a cool, dark and quiet environment that can help ensure quality sleep.
Stress is a major contributor of sleep problems. Practicing stress management techniques such as mindfulness, yoga and deep breathing can help reduce stress. Check out 7 Natural tips for beating anxiety and getting a good night to learn more.
Exercise every day
Regular exercise can help to reduce symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep quality. To learn more about exercise and insomnia you can read.
Get plenty of sunshine throughout the day
Sun exposure helps to regulate your sleep/wake cycles by influencing your internal body clock (circadian rhythm).
Avoid eating too close to bedtime
Eating large meals before bedtime can cause sleep disruptions. If you need to eat, eat something small and nutritious. To learn more about what foods are best before sleeping you can read Foods you should and definitely shouldn’t eat before sleep!
If you are having difficulty losing weight and you’ve tried everything, then sleep may be the solution to your problem. When you sleep well, you’ll help to regulate your appetite, eat less calories, choose better foods and exercise better that can support weight loss.
Congratulations to Angie who won a $20 gift voucher just for asking Ben a question! If you have any other questions or need some extra support with your health, feel free to email our head nutritionist Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org and subscribe to our blog for more updates.
This article does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances. Please see your medical professional before implementing the above.