How Sleep Affects Your Weight
Quantity and quality are key to good nights and better days
He made changes to his diet and began exercising, believing that calories in minus calories out would create weight loss — but he became frustrated that he was doing the work and not getting a weight loss paycheque.
Dan was surprised when I asked him about his sleep patterns and inquired if he snored loudly. Based on his answers, I referred Dan to a sleep medicine physician, who diagnosed him with severe sleep apnea — a factor hindering his ability to lose weight.
The role of sleep
Getting quality sleep and simply enough sleep per night is important for your overall health, especially if you are struggling with your weight. Sleep deprivation negatively affects blood sugar clearance and insulin sensitivity, putting you at risk for high blood sugars and diabetes.
Insufficient sleep also negatively affects appetite regulation. The hormone leptin suppresses appetite when your body has enough food. Ghrelin is the appetite stimulator hormone and is secreted in the gut when our body detects a need for food. When you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin and more ghrelin present, which may make you more likely to overeat high-calorie foods.
Research also shows that individuals not getting enough sleep have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that high cortisol levels increase fat storage around your waistline and decrease insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
10 tips for sleep
1. Establish a solid sleep routine. As much as possible, develop a sleep habit to wake up and go to bed at approximately the same time each day. Getting to bed earlier can be hard, so start with 15 minutes at a time.
2. Curb caffeine late in the day. Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so decrease coffee, tea and other caffeine sources from lunch onward.
3. Watch alcohol intake. Despite alcohol initially making you sleepy, it can hinder entering into the deep restorative stages of sleep.
4. Avoid large meals late in the day. Taking in lots of food and fluid before bed can cause indigestion and make it difficult to fall asleep, as well as cause you to wake up to urinate frequently at night.
5. Assess when you exercise. Research shows exercise late in the day can make it difficult to fall asleep, so you may need to move physical activity to earlier in the day.
6. Power down stimulating activities. Turn off smartphones, computers and television at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Take the television out of your bedroom.
7. Ask your doctor for help. If you snore loudly and are overweight, you may have sleep apnea. Ask your doctor for more information about this and about a referral to a sleep medicine physician. Consider using a light box, which can also help.
8. Don’t go to bed starved. If you are chronically dieting, carb deprived and simply not eating enough, your sleep will be disturbed. Seek help from a registered dietitian to create a food plan that achieves a good balance of nourishment for health and weight management.
9. Examine your medications and supplements. Talk to a pharmacist for education about your medications, including herbs and dietary supplements that may be helpful or harmful.
10. Help for emotional health. Give yourself enough time to truly unwind before bed. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, it can be difficult to get enough quality or quantity of sleep. Work with a registered psychologist and your physician to process and strategize feeling better and getting the help you need.
How much sleep do you need?
Newborns 0 to 2 months: 12 to 18 hours
Infants 3 to 11 months: 14 to 15 hours
Toddlers 1 to 3 years: 12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers 3 to 5 years: 11 to 13 hours
School-age children 5 to 10 years: 10 to 11 hours
Teenagers 10 to 17 years: 8.5 to 9.25 hours
Adults: 7 to 9 hours
— Source: National Sleep Foundation