How Sleep Affects Your Weight Print

How Sleep Affects Your Weight

Quantity and quality are key to good nights and better days

Forty-nine-year-old Dan wondered how his scale had tipped to more than 300 pounds, but seeing the number on the scale spurred him to action.

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

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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