WEIGHT MANAGEMENT ∙ 2 minutes read

The fundamentals of sleep and weight loss

By Dr Leah Gorodi

Sleep is essential as it gives our body a chance to repair, recharge, and keep us healthy. Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. Insufficient sleep has been proven to correlate with many physical health issues.

These include:

  • Higher sugar levels and cortisol levels (stress hormone)
  • Increased appetite and obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease
  • Increased association with several types of cancer 

What’s the link between sleep and health?

Without proper sleep, your brain can’t function properly, reducing your ability to concentrate and affecting your memory. It also has a huge impact on mental wellbeing and is linked with anxiety, depression, and emotional distress.

With regards to weight management, adequate sleep plays a crucial role and sleep loss can lead to weight gain. To complicate things further, being overweight leads to health issues that can negatively impact sleep.

How are sleep and weight connected?

Poor quality sleep causes metabolic changes in the body. We experience higher levels of nighttime cortisol (stress hormone) and glucose (sugar levels) which are linked to obesity as well as reduced insulin sensitivity.

It also alters our levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin which help regulate appetite - the result of of this is that we overeat, seeking a higher intake of calories in the day (particularly carbohydrate and fat dense foods). 

One study showed that men and women who slept for 4 hours for 5 nights in a row sought out roughly 300 calories more during the day. Another issue is that people who are sleep deprived tend to be less physically active which leads to further fatigue and weight gain, compounding the problem. 

Being overweight is also associated with several health conditions that can make sleep problems worse such as obstructive sleep apnoea, indigestion, asthma, osteoarthritis, and depression, continuing the vicious cycle. 

How can you get better sleep?

Getting good quality sleep is achievable by focusing on changes in your lifestyle. With patience and commitment, you’ll be able to make long-term improvements that will have a huge impact on both your physical and mental health. 

The most important things to take action on are:

  • Sleep environment
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Light exposure
  • Physical activity
  • Diet
  • Minimising nighttime worry and stress
  • Maintaining a bedtime routine

The bottom line

All aspects of your health and lifestyle impact each other. Sleep loss affects your energy levels which means you exercise less and eat more. This has a knock-on effect on your mindset, which can lead you to become negative, demotivated, and make the issue worse. It all works together.