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The Connection Between Sleep and your Weight

25 May 2021


Weight loss is always a challenge but it’s worth knowing that sleep and body weight are intrinsically linked. If we don’t get a good night’s sleep, this can have far reaching consequences and in particular can impact our ability to lose weight.

How is sleep and weight management connected?

It is no coincidence that sleep deprivation and an increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) are interconnected and reflect a concerning trend towards increased obesity within the UK. There are many studies that link lack of sleep or disrupted sleep to metabolic disorders, weight gain and increased risk of obesity and chronic health conditions. The exact scientific reasons behind this correlation are still being debated but there is a positive correlation between good sleep and healthy body weight.

Can lack of sleep increase appetite?

We tend to link appetite to how our stomach feels, if its full or grumbling. In fact, appetite is actually linked to specific neurotransmitters that signal messages from the brain to the gut. These messengers or neurotransmitters are called Ghrelin (hunger signal) and Leptin (fullness signal).

Ghrelin promotes hunger, and leptin contributes to feeling full. The body naturally increases and decreases the levels of these neurotransmitters throughout the day by signalling to the brain that we are full or we that need calories (food energy).

However, sleep deprivation interferes with these body regulating neurotransmitters by effecting how full we feel after we have eaten food and/or how hungry we truly are. It has also been found that in addition to neurotransmitter dysregulation, food choices or food preferences can be altered when we are sleep deprived. How often have you noticed that when your tired you tend to reach for higher calorific foods (High Fat/High Sugar) foods. The body literally seeks out more energy, in this case from high energy foods.

Does sleep increase metabolism?

Metabolism is a chemical process in which the body converts what we eat and drink into energy needed to survive. Exercise can temporarily increase metabolism, however when we sleep metabolism slows down by about 15%. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation (insomnia, sleep apnoea or just staying up beyond our bedtime) may lead to metabolic dysregulation. Disruption of our sleep cycles (circadian rhythm) may ultimately lead to weight gain. So eating late into the night puts you more at risk of weight gain, because metabolism is lowered during sleeping hours.

Sleep and physical activity

When you lose sleep, you have less energy for exercise and physical activity the next day. Exercise is essential for maintaining healthy weight loss so the next time you want to scroll through your social media at 2am, think about getting those zzzz’s so you’re ready to work out the next day. The good news is that getting regular exercise, particularly outside, helps improve your sleep. Try to engage in some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day and get outside as much as you can.



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