When you think of weight-loss you probably don’t think of sleep at the same time.
The health and fitness industry will have you believe that your weight-loss progress hinges on a secret formula only they know.
And guess what, you can buy it for a fair price!
However, what if there is no secret formula?
What if the missing piece in your weight-loss puzzle was quite simply, a good night’s sleep.
Best of all, sleep costs you absolutely nothing.
Repeat the process consistently and you really could have found that golden nugget of the weight-loss strategy you’ve been looking for.
Weight-loss and sleep
As we explore the relationship between weight-loss and sleep we’ll take a look at why sleep is hindering your progress…
And more importantly what you can do to take control.
Poor sleep and hunger control
Say hello to your hunger hormones Ghrelin and Leptin.
Ghrelin is the one that makes you hungry….
It’s quite normal for Ghrelin to be released throughout the day.
After all you need to eat.
Poor sleep drives up the production of Ghrelin, and you start feeling more hungry than normal.
Therefore, the likelihood of eating more also starts to rise.
Now meet Ghrelin’s hormone friend Leptin.
Leptin has the opposite effect on your hunger, in that it acts like an off-switch.
Poor sleep reduces the amount of Leptin your body produces which impacts your ability to feel full and stop eating.
Increased Ghrelin and reduced Leptin makes weight-loss much harder than it should be.
Research has even shown that restricted sleep leads to people eating larger food portions the following day.
Along with larger food portions it’s also thought that poor sleep triggers cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods with low nutritional value.
This brings us to our next topic…
Poor sleep and blood sugar levels
Controlling your blood sugar levels is a crucial part of the weight-loss equation.
After a poor nights sleep sensitivity of the hormone insulin which deals with your blood sugars is down regulated, therefore your ability to control your blood sugar levels is reduced.
In response your body ramps up its production of insulin.
Over prolonged periods of time high levels of insulin creates an environment where extra energy is readily converted into fat and stored in the body.
Not only will a poor nights sleep hike up your insulin levels, it can also increase your cravings for palatable processed carbohydrate foods which reduce your body’s ability to feel satisfied by the foods you eat. This is a common reason for overeating.
If you’re looking to generate weight-loss this is not a situation that will work in your favour.
Poor sleep and the stress response
Poor sleep drives up the level of your stress hormones circulating around the body.
Whilst stress hormones are quite natural and also needed, there comes a point when too much can become a problem.
Cortisol has been shown to play a big role in appetite with prolonged increases being linked to increased hunger.
Increased accumulation of fat within the body, particularly around the waist-line is brought about by the combination of raised cortisol and insulin levels.
Interestingly there are also links between increased stress and consumption of ‘comfort foods’, namely those that are high in fat, sugar and salt as they have been shown to trigger reward sensors in the brain and dampen our perception of stress.
Unfortunately these highly palatable foods also drastically increase food intake which is a recipe for weight-gain.
How to improve sleep quality
Use a sleep app to track your sleep
Getting a clear understanding of how much sleep you get and the quality of your sleep is key. Without this information you’ll always be guessing about the impact the other changes below are making on your sleep.
Try using Sleepscore as a good free starting option.
Set a bedtime routine
Getting caught up in work emails or social media before going to bed won’t do your stress levels any good.
And we know what that means for your weight-loss progress too.
Put your phone on airplane mode before going to bed and kick back with a book, preferably something easy to read, you don’t need brain ache before bed!
Reduce caffeine intake
Research suggests the majority of us can only tolerate around 400mg caffeine each day, which equates to around 2 coffees.
Anything above this will have a negative impact on your ability to nod off in the evening.
Also, consider that caffeine has a half-life of around 5-hours which means 50% of the caffeine you consume will still be circulating around your body 5-hours after drinking it….try to stop drinking coffee and tea after mid-afternoon.
You can learn more about how to reduce your caffeine intake in the Digestible Guide to Reducing you Caffeine Intake.
Wear ear plugs
There’s no fancy science behind this one, ear plugs simply block out any external noise and help you sleep instead of being woken up by whatever’s going on outside.
Reduce your screen time at night
Being able to down-regulate and fall asleep is key to getting a good nights sleep.
Our daily exposure to digital screens and the blue light they emit offsets our body’s natural sleep cycle which makes it much harder to get quality sleep at night.
Try installing F.lux software on your computer, laptop and smartphone to naturally dim the light of your screen when the sun starts to set outside.