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Does Lack of Quality Sleep Affect Your Weight?

Posted 5 years ago by Lori Scholle

As spring approaches us everything seems to be bursting with new energy and life. Even our clocks “spring ahead” like they did this weekend taking away one hour of our sleep. Missing one hour of sleep might not seem like a big deal but as everyone starts their first day back at work or school the difference is evident. Some of us feel sluggish, unable to focus, hungry at all the wrong times and probably just “not right”. Just one slight adjustment to our regular sleep schedule can produce some significant effects on our overall wellbeing. How important is quality sleep to our bodies when it comes to our weight?

The answer to this might surprise you – sleep DOES have a significant effect on our weight. Studies suggest that there is a connection between a lack of quality sleep and changes in our eating habits. How is this possible you ask? The answer is simple, when you get quality sleep (7-8 hours per night)your body has the chance to restore itself so it can perform at it’s best each day. When you have poor quality sleep your body does not complete this restoration process which leaves your body in a state of stress.

When your body experiences stress it adapts by adjusting hormone levels in your body. Two of the hormones that play a significant role in appetite control – ghrelin and leptin – are among those affected. Ghrelin is the hormone that increases your desire to eat. Leptin is the hormone that decreases the desire to eat. Studies show that in times of stress, such as a lack of quality sleep, levels of ghrelin are elevated and leptin levels are diminished in an effort to help the body cope. The increased levels of ghrelin encourage us to seek out foods that are quick sources of energy such as sugary and calorie dense foods. This hormonal shift is a normal reaction that our bodies have developed to deal with a stressor that comes intermittently. Putting our bodies under constant stress through lack of quality sleep chronically alters ghrelin and leptin levels which impairs our ability to make healthy food choices.

What can you do to prevent this hormone shift in your body?  Make getting quality sleep a priority in your life.   The following tips are ways you can work towards sleeping better:

  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night
  • Try sticking to a sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
  • Avoid the use of electronic equipment (iPad, Computer, iPhone) in your bed.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages – you may think they help you get to sleep but they actually alter the quality of sleep you are getting which leaves you feeling tired and sluggish the next day.
  • Watch your caffeine intake.  Consuming caffeinated drinks too close to bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep.
  • Eat your last large meal 2-3 hours before going to bed.

Sleep is not just for people who are “lazy”-  it is an essential part of a healthy life!